Council approves employee wage increases

City Council
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     City of Monticello non-bargaining staff wages for Fiscal Year 2021 were approved during the June 15 city council meeting. Also approved was the employment agreement between the city and Monticello Police Department officers and staff.

     The city’s wage committee met and made several recommendations to the city council.

     Last year, Police Chief Britt Smith’s salary was increased due to additional duties and responsibilities with taking on the Ambulance Administrator position. The committee recommended a 2.5 percent increase as well as a $5,000 increase, which is tied to the ambulance department. This takes Smith’s salary from $71,121 in FY 2020 to $77,900 in FY 2021.

     “A lot of good things are happening and keep moving forward in the right direction with this arrangement,” City Administrator Doug Herman remarked on Smith’s ambulance role.

     Council member Dave Goedken asked Smith if his ambulance administrator position was something permanent.

     “It’s been a challenge but I enjoy my involvement with the service and I enjoy my role,” said Smith. “I’ve had the authority to implement some changes and we’ll see how it progresses.”

     Jim Tjaden, water/wastewater superintendent, was present at the council meeting to share his thoughts on his wage increase.

     “I thank you for your faith in me to run the department and for the raise I got last year,” Tjaden expressed.

     However, Tjaden said there still remains a “pretty big discrepancy” from what he makes and what his peers bring home.

     Tjaden said with perhaps five years left of his employment before retirement, he’s requesting an increase of $3,000 a year for the next five years, for a total of $15,000.

     Having been named Operator of the Year by his peers, Tjaden said he does a good job.

     “I’m not asking for the moon,” he said. “This compensates the cost of living increase and shortens the gap between water/wastewater superintendents around the area and myself.”

     Tjaden said he has a vested interest in the city and cares a lot about what happens here.

     “I’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into our program and made it better,” he said.

     Tjaden received $58,000 in FY 2020, and the wage committee recommended $61,000 for FY 2021.

     “He makes a good point,” commented Goedken. “Jim has been here a long time, and it’s not too much to ask and I’m in favor of $3,000 for the next five years.”

     Lori Lynch, lead paramedic, went from $23.75 an hour to $25.30 an hour for FY ’21.

     “There’s a lot on the medical side that Lori is responsible for,” noted Herman. “And she’s the boss for the staff.”

     Public Works Director Nick Kahler and City Clerk Sally Hinrichsen were both recommended for a 3 percent increase. This takes Kahler from $52,500 to $54,075; and Hinrichsen from $64,690 to $66,307.

     Jacob Oswald, Parks and Rec director, will go from $49,200 to $53,000. Shannon Poe, Parks and Rec superintendent will go from $41,000 to $42,230.

     The committee increased Oswald’s salary due to his performance, cost of living increase, and comparable data presented.

     Poe is receiving a 3 percent increase.

     When it comes to the police department staff, Herman noted that it’s hard to find qualified officers to serve the community. MPD officers with five or more years of service make $25.56 an hour, lower than surrounding communities.

     Another issue is the city’s health insurance contribution, which is on the low end.

     “The biggest struggle in a small community is creating enough of a desire to recruit people to come here with a loss to better-paying agencies,” noted Chief Smith. “We lack specialty departments and functions here. But we work hard to keep the ones we have.”

     Smith said the application pool for hiring officers is pretty shallow right now, which means the MPD needs to work to retain its current employees.

     Therefore, officers’ base pay will increase 3 percent on July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022. The same is true for Office Manager Madonna Staner.

     Some changes to the employment agreement were changed:

     • The education incentive was eliminated

     • The shift differential pay was eliminated

     • Longevity pay was added

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