Scandia still in the hunt for maintenance supervisor

City Administrator Anne Hurlburt to retire this fall

Mary Bailey
Scandia Reporter

Scandia is advertising again for someone to head the public works department. After creating the new position last year, the Scandia City Council offered the job to their top candidate, who accepted and then changed his mind.

The second choice candidate took the job, pushed back the start date and then opted for a promotion with his current employer.

In a 3-2 vote, the council decided at their Tuesday, Feb. 14 work session to advertise again. Those who applied last fall can call the city by March 9, when applications close,  to say they’re still interested.

Mayor Randall Simonson and Council Members Chris Ness and Sally Swanson voted to reopen the application process. Council Member Jim Schneider was against delaying the hiring process to advertise again.

“We wasted a whole winter,” he said. “I’m disappointed this stuff wasn’t done.”

Council member Connie Amos was also against advertising again. “We’ve got plenty of applicants,” she said.

City Administrator Anne Hurlburt urged the council to open the application process. “Hiring the right person is way more important than hiring somebody fast,” she said.

At the urging of Swanson, the council decided to require that the maintenance superintendent live within 30 minutes of Scandia.  This requirement also applies to current maintenance workers.

Hurlburt to Retire

In another important staffing matter, Hurlburt said she intends to retire the first week of October.

She recommended the council start looking for her replacement soon, as the process can take months and the new hire will probably need to give 30 days notice.

The first steps should include reviewing the job description and interviewing consultants, she said.

Swanson questioned the need to hire a consultant. “A company like that is a $10,000 option,” she said. “I’m not on board with that.”

The council decided to look into the cost of hiring a consultant.

Fire Department Hiring Process

Scandia Fire Chief Jim Finnegan and several firefighters attended the council work session to discuss the fire department hiring process.

The department plans to hire up to six new members this spring. Applications will be accepted in March, with interviews and testing in April. After a second round of interviews in May, new hires will start June 2.

Instead of keeping new recruits on a two-year probation, the department would like to reduce this time to one year. “By then we have a pretty good feeling of if they’re gonna make it,” Finnegan said, “and they have a better feeling of being part of the department.”

All firefighters are required to live within 15 minutes of the fire station. For the new recruits, the department would like to reduce the response time to eight minutes.

Both changes were to be voted on by the council on Feb. 21.

Finnegan said that in the next five years many firefighters will be leaving the department. “We are an aging department; we need young guys,” he said.  “It is a big commitment. We try to get people to do this for 20 years.”

At the second interview of finalists, Finnegan said, the candidate’s spouse may be brought in to learn about the family commitment. “We want everybody to have a good understanding,” he said.

Zavoral EIS

The draft environmental impact statement related to the Zavoral mine proposal was delivered to the city on Feb. 14.

A special council meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 28, when the council will approve release of the document for formal public review. The draft EIS can be seen at the city office or accessed on the website.

On April 3 the planning commission will have a public meeting to receive comments.

Committees

In a unanimous vote the council changed its committee structure for 2012.  They agreed to delete the human resources committee for 2012, as the whole council has been involved in hiring decisions.

The capital improvements committee was also eliminated. The council has been frustrated by the lack of interest, with some residents on the committee not attending the meetings.

At the beginning of the budgeting process for next year, the council will have public work sessions to discuss road maintenance and improvements. Administrator Hurlburt said the city needs a new policy to finance road construction.

A new wastewater advisory committee will be created to tackle sewer issues.  The city is in the process of upgrading the Uptown Sewer that serves the community center and warming house, the church and museum, and downtown businesses.

The city must find a contractor for the Anderson/Erickson part of the 201 system serving Big Marine Lake residents, as Washington County will no longer manage that portion. And the city needs to figure out maintenance responsibilities for a Bone Lake collector system.

Council members Ness, Schneider and Swanson volunteered to be on the new sewer committee. The new maintenance superintendent will also be included, and one or more users will be invited to join.

Swanson will continue as the council representative on the park and recreation committee. Ness will remain council representative on the planning commission.

Accessory Buildings

Council member Schneider brought up the city ordinance on accessory buildings. Scandia’s rules on the number of acres required for accessory buildings are more restrictive than neighboring cities.

Former town board member Kevin Nickelson said the rules were written to regulate buildings on large, non-agricultural properties, but in effect they punish farmers. “Everybody around us has a 20-acre minimum, but we’re 80,” he said.  “We could go to 40, not 20. I think that would be reasonable.”

“We’re trying to encourage every type of farming:  truck farming, greenhouses.  For those you don’t need a lot of land, but you may need a lot of buildings,” he added.

Hurlburt said some residents are passionate about keeping the restrictions, and expressed their feelings at the meetings to create the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

Schneider suggested that there may be unnecessary restriction. “If you’re gonna use it for farming, and then a couple years later turn it into boat storage, that’s when to you go after them,” he said.

2012 Goals

The council also discussed several items on the list of projects and activities for 2012. A new recycling contract with SRC will be needed, Hurlburt said, as the current one expired and has not been changed for years.

The council should plan to take required training for the National Incident Management System on emergencies such as a large fire or tornado, natural disaster, or terrorism.

Deputy Clerk Brenda Eklund will be qualified to administer elections and will take a more active role in training election judges this year.

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