Hammond board discusses public works staffing issuesThere’s been a lot of talk concerning issues within the Village of Hammond in recent months. The regular board meeting on Monday night was no exception.
By: Gretta Stark, New Richmond News
There’s been a lot of talk concerning issues within the Village of Hammond in recent months. The regular board meeting on Monday night was no exception.
The June 11 meeting, which didn’t adjourn until 11:30 p.m., had a list of important agenda items, including how the village will fill the position of Public Works Director Rodney Turk due to his resignation on May 30.
According to his resignation letter, Turk resigned “due to the ongoing bullying, finger pointing, false acquisitions, singling me out and the continued personal agenda of Trustee Mary Rivard, John Rivard and Trustee Erin McCombs.”
Turk claimed the undue stress caused health issues that he can no longer endure.
The letter was dated May 24 with his resignation effective 8 a.m. May 30.
Trustee Brenda Monroe said since the resignation the board has researched various staffing options.
“We’ve got an obligation to the village, but we also have an obligation to the employees. And after having some conversations I thought that it would be worthwhile to do a little research to see if I could find anything that would help us be a little more creative in what we’re doing to get somebody in there that can ‘get their hands dirty’ so to speak,” she said.
Monroe shared options she found, one of which included having a blended role of public works director and village administrator or a village manager who possessed the required wastewater and water certifications for the public works position.
Monroe described the village manager position as a person who “would essentially act as a CEO chosen by the council purely on merit…you could include the water certifications in that and require that they have those certifications.”
The board seemed split on whether to fill Turk’s position as is or change it to give the new employee a more administrative and less hands-on role.
“Knowing that this board is split on the philosophy of an approach, we have to come to a consensus on something sooner than later. This (village manager) is a blend of that,” Monroe said.
Trustee Doug Doll said while he isn’t against the administrative-type position, he thinks the village needs to get someone hired who has credentials and can “get their hands dirty” as quickly as possible.
Trustee Mary Rivard said the new hire will also have to have extra credentials not included in the current director of public works job description. She said financial and budgeting knowledge is an important component of the position.
Many people in attendance shared their opinion on what the village should do to fill the position and Village Clerk Kelly Brett chimed in on the topic, too.
“I worked with Rod (Turk) when I first started here, and I worked with him quite a bit after I became clerk. I just feel that there is a lot of responsibility and a lot of work done in public works and to put that and an administrative title with all those responsibilities on one person would be way too much,” she said.
Trustee Eric Arthur said someone could be taught about how to deal with the administrative tasks of the job.
Monroe said while public works maintenance employee Chuck Fedie has been working to manage the plant since Turk’s departure, the village needs to make sure it is providing him with the help he needs.
“Given the level of confidence Chuck Fedie has, I had a conversation with him, his level of confidence is that he wants some help,” she said. “He wants to learn, but he doesn’t feel comfortable being the go-to guy. I don’t think there is any secret about that. I think this is an opportunity for us. Maybe we take a City of Marengo (approach) and get a utility person in there like Randy (Lindquist) that has some certifications and get Chuck back into a mentor-mentee situation and then we look at the conversation around the director-level position.”
The board approved hiring a certified wastewater and water utility worker. The board will post the position after reviewing the current job description.
Until the village hires someone to fill the role, former utility operator Randy Lindquist will fill in up to 20 hours a week to help Fedie manage the public works department by answering questions and helping with paperwork, etc. The village will pay Lindquist $30 per hour, which will cover the cost of his insurance since he will be considered an independent contractor. He will also be paid the $30 rate for the hours he’s accrued since Turk left.
In other news:
-Following a closed session, the board approved authorizing American Engineering Testing (AET) to engage Municipal Engineering-McCombs Frank Roos Associates (MRFA) to provide engineering services regarding the village’s seepage cell and overall plant management. The service will be paid for through the clean water fund loan. The board approved authorizing the village to seek bids for trenching the three remaining seepage cells (paid for with the clean water fund loan). The board also approved allowing the village attorney begin litigation regarding the village’s seepage cell performance.
-Hammond Library Director Michelle Johnson spoke to the board about a grant opportunity to build a playground on the south end of town. Many board members expressed concern about the costs the village would incur due to the project. Johnson will work with Monroe to look at location and cost options for the possible playground.
-The board approved appointing Theresa Davenport as the St. Croix Central School District representative on the library board. Davenport replaces Laurie Fedie.
-The board discussed a possible 1,200-foot pedestrian walking trail in the Black Duck development. After a lengthy discussion about costs of the project, the board agreed to table the item to wait to see if the Safe Routes to School grant could cover some of the project costs—doing so could save the village around $100,000.
-The board approved removing the sidewalk on the east side of the County Highway Department, south of Third Street, because of safety concerns with children walking in front of the garage doors where large trucks go through daily.
-The board discussed costs for staking the alleyway between the Hammond Hotel and the Hammond Library to determine the property line. The board agreed to have Ayres Associates engineer Greg Adams look at a map of the library property to determine an approximate distance of where the line is.
-The board approved paying out Turk for 22 hours of accrued vacation.
-The board approved the police department to sell the old squad car to the highest bidder (about $4,100). The money from the sale will go back into the squad car fund.
-The next regular board meeting is scheduled for July 9 at 7 p.m. at the village hall.