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Council approves city wage study

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A measure to hire a consultant to evaluate Superior’s job classifications and develop a plan for paying city employees squeaked through the council by a 6-4 vote.

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Councilors Dan Olson, Warren Bender, Mike Herrick and Esther Dalbec voted against the proposal to spend $30,000, plus unknown travel expenses, on a wage study by Carlson-Dettman of Middleton, Wis. The consulting firm developed the pay plan implemented by Douglas County.

“The reason for this particular study was several-fold,” said Mayor Bruce Hagen. “It is part and parcel to the two phase proposal that I put before the council some time ago.”

Under the first phase of the mayor’s plan to make city wages competitive, the council approved retroactive pay increases for most city workers no longer working under collective bargaining agreements. City administration also received pay increases under the first phase.

“The city employees, in my opinion again, have not had proper reward, not just monetary, but in classification review,” Hagen said. He said while employees have taken on additional responsibility as the number of city workers were reduced over time.

Any decisions made based on the consultant’s report would be made by the council, Hagen said.

However, some city councilors didn’t want to spend the money for the consultant.

“What I’m asking my councilors to think about this,” Olson said. “We have a human resources department; we have a labor management program; we have 10 councilors; we have other staff members who work in all aspects of this … and I do not believe we should be … spending $30,000 of our hard-earned tax dollars on somebody that I don’t have enough information on. There’s nothing in here that will tell me that things will be better after this study. If we get to the end of this study and we don’t like the results, we just spent $30,000.”

However, Councilors Tom Fennessey, Jack Sweeney, Denise McDonald, Terry Massoglia, Bob Finsland and Dennis Dalbec voted in favor of the measure.

“I have the opposite opinion and I thought about these things,” Sweeney said. He said the goal is to make things fair and equitable among city staff, and the study is a means to that end. The city wants to be competitive in the job market, Sweeney said. He said he doesn’t believe the city’s human resource department has the time to do the study.

Dalbec said the cost of the contract represents about one-1,000th of the cost of the city’s annual budget and well worth the money.

By having an outside consultant do the study, Sweeney said the study would be more objective and credible.

“I think we have to start somewhere, and I’m in favor of it,” Sweeney said.

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