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Superior to trim staff in Environmental Services Division

Reorganizing the city's engineering staff would save money, pay better and create opportunities for student interns, officials said.

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Government Center in Superior, Wisconsin. Jed Carlson / 2019 file / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A planned retirement is creating an opportunity for the city’s Environmental Services Division to save money, for employees to earn a little bit more in their weekly paychecks and to give students a chance to learn on the job.

The Human Resources Committee approved a plan Monday, Nov. 21 to reorganize engineering staff in the Environmental Services Division that will accomplish all three when one of the engineers retires in January.

The plan includes reducing the number of engineers from four to three upon the retirement; increasing the number of hours the remaining engineers work from 37.5 to 40 per week; and hiring two student interns full-time each year for 12 weeks.

The change is expected to save about $30,000 in salary costs annually, said Erin Abramson of the Environmental Services Division.

“Right now, if everybody is working full-time, it would be a total of 11,700 hours for the year,” Abramson said. “With my proposed changes, it comes out to 11,360 hours per year. So, it’s very close.”

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With changes in the city’s wastewater permit, Abramson said the staff are not required to submit as many reports as they had to in 2014. She said even if that does change, the city already has a full-time engineering collections coordinator that does the majority of the reporting.

“I don’t take this lightly — the reduction in staff — but given the staff I have, and the work I’ve seen them do over the last couple of years ... I think this is a doable change because they’ll be taking home more pay and it’s good for the city because overall we’ll be saving money,” Abramson said. The wage would remain the same, but employees would be working more hours each week.

Councilor Ruth Ludwig questioned the use of student interns and the ability to fill those positions.

Abramson said prior to 2014, it was common practice to have student interns working for the Environmental Services Division, and she plans to work with area colleges and universities to help fill the positions. Most of the work student interns will do is field work and if she’s unable to fill the positions, she said other employees could help fill the gap to ensure the field work is done.

Currently, the wage for student interns is $13.27 per hour, but committee members agreed the wage is something that should be looked at for a possible increase.

A recommendation for the wage could be made in December, when the committee considers wages and salaries for all city staff following a wage study by Carlson-Dettman, said Cammi Janigo, human resources director.

The reorganization of the Environmental Services Division engineering staff will be considered by the city council Dec. 6.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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