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Hammond agrees to hire full-time replacement

The issue of how to fill the vacancy of the deputy clerk position after Mary Hemenway's retirement raised questions about cost-savings versus continuity in the office at the regular Village of Hammond board meeting on March 14.

The board looked at two options for filling the vacancy -- either hiring two part-time employees or one full-time employee.

Trustee Erin McComb explained both options, including the potential savings of each.

The first option was hiring a full-time employee, working 40 hours a week, at a wage of $14.57 an hour (wages tier up), that projects around $30,000 in annual wage and benefits at $21,171.26 (which was projected at around 80 percent of Hemenway's existing benefits).

McComb said between savings in wage and benefits, she projected the village could save $12,868.18 by hiring one full-time employee.

The second option included hiring two part-time employees, one that focused exclusively on public works activities and the other that focused on the deputy clerk responsibilities.

McComb suggested each part-time employee would work 25 hours a week, giving the village an extra 10 hours of work a week for less money. Not having to pay benefits for the employees would potentially save the village $38,523.92 annually.

Kelly Brett, village clerk, said the position was "not black and white" and that she did not agree with the two part-time employee option.

Conversation erupted concerning the risks of having part-time employees handling large amounts of the village's money, the multitude of responsibilities of the job, the fact that the money comes from user fees (for utilities) and not tax money, the cost of paying into two employees' retirement funds, as well as extra work Brett would have to put in to train two new employees.

"I don't agree with it at all," Brett said. "I feel like the service is going to suffer. I feel like we're going to spend more time going through everything at the end of the year and the auditor's going to be here longer and it's going to cost more money. We're going to have double the training cost.

"The consistency is not going to be in the office," Brett said. "There is not going to be a lot of overlap. I don't agree with it. I don't."

She said she felt that the only option was to fill the vacancy with a full-time employee.

Village President Vince Trudell suggested having a full-time hire, with less than 40 hours a week.

Rodney Turk told the board, "I think there are a couple things you guys are missing here. I don't think you guys really know what Mary does behind that glass. You keep throwing around this, 'two part-time people are going to do this and do that,' two part-time people up there is going to be a mess."

Trustee Wally Graf said if the village is going to be responsible and cut costs, "service might be cut back a little bit." He suggested keeping the service where it is could potentially raise taxes.

The board voted to fill the deputy clerk position with one full-time employee. Graf, Trudell and McComb voted against the full-time position.

A handful of village employees were on hand to hear the board's decision on the union contract approval.

McComb gave a quick overview of some of the union contract changes.

Among her list were: "Layoffs based off the classification of the job versus the whole body;" an increase in hours for on-call employees; a graduated increase of three years; an additional 50 cents an hour for the clerical staff; and the elimination of the "Me Too" clause.

Graf had hesitations about the changes.

"When we met, (the budget repair bill) was all just starting. I don't feel myself, being good to the taxpayers, responsible for their money, that we not rush this through, but get it in before the deadline. Because it's their money We didn't have dollar amounts at that tentative agreement (in February) and after looking through it we're looking at the board back here -- in less than three years this would add roughly $40,000 to the budget. This was put in by the governor because he's telling us our funds are going to be cut," Graf said.

Graf said he wants to be responsible with the taxpayers' money.

"In lieu of what's happened in the budget law, we should just table this or go back and look at it again. Because the rules have changed. This board voted for the moratorium on the impact fees to help draw in people. Well, to me, the biggest thing we can do is keep taxes down," he said.

McComb said the board had made an agreement with village employees "in good faith," knowing that the law was looming. While McComb said she shared Graf's concern, she said she didn't like that "this creates an additional set of classes between our employees" -- union and non-union.

After looking at cost projections, McComb said, "I think I'm comfortable with the risks that the three-year contract presents."

The board approved the union contract, with Graf casting the lone "no" vote.

In other news:

• During the public comment time of the meeting, Tony Endres spoke to the board about selling firearms via the Internet instead of having a retail store in his home.

Endres said when someone placed an order for a firearm, he would ship the item to another Federal Firearm licensed dealer.

"So, they wouldn't be coming to my house," he said.

Trustee Tony Bibeau asked if Endres would still have inventory in his home and McComb asked if Endres would be receiving orders from other dealers at his home as well.

"I can't say that that wouldn't happen. That wouldn't be my intent. My intent would be to sell them and ship them out somewhere. But that's not to say that someone from the area wouldn't be buying something online and they would have it delivered to me and I would do the transfer and background check for them. I don't foresee that happening very often, but it's a possibility," Endres said.

Endres' neighbors had previously voiced concern about increased traffic and safety issues involved in the movement and storage of firearms in their neighborhood.

The board chose to put Endres' firearm business proposal on the agenda for the April 11 board meeting.

• The board approved the retirement vacation payout of $2,915.20 for Mary Hemenway.

• The board set the public hearing date for the conditional use permit request from Trinity Lutheran Church for April 11 at 7 p.m.

• The board accepted a community garden proposal on seven and a half acres of village land at Clyde Hanson Drive and Ridgeway Street.

• The next regular village board meeting is April 11 at 7 p.m.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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