Story City council approves new employee hires

Todd Thorson, Staff Writer,
Stone work is progressing at the South Park shelter house as part of a major improvement project in Story City. Contractor Lansink Construction is in charge of the project. The new loop trail system in the South Park is also nearly complete. Excavation work on the two river overlooks is also under way.

The Story City council spent the majority of its regular 7 p.m. meeting on Monday night (August 1) discussing various employee issues, including the hiring of two new employees, a health insurance reimbursement for a former employee and a lengthy and detailed discussion concerning a current water/wastewater employee’s salary.

The council approved the hiring of two new departmental employees - one for the Parks and Recreation Department and the other for the Water/Wastewater Department.

Cole Teig, a Story City native, was hired for an available maintenance position out of a pool of eight applicants. Two people were interviewed for the position. Teig previously was employed by Service Unlimited in Story City and has also worked for Lowe’s in Ames and True Value, also in Story City.

Teig will begin at level one of the employee salary schedule. Step one amounts to 85 percent of the base salary, which will be $39,499. He will also receive 40 hours of vacation and 40 hours of sick leave. The open maintenance position became available when former Parks and Rec employee Randy Martindale moved over to assume the Water/Wastewater Superintendent position.

Also hired by the city was Jason Towne for the open Water/Wastewater operator position, recently vacated by Scott Mathis, who resigned last month. Two individuals were interviewed for the job.

Towne comes to Story City from Denison, where he worked for the municipal utilities department there, also as a water/wastewater operator. He currently is certified at Grade 2 in both water treatment and water distribution.

Due to Towne’s experience and certification, City Administrator Mark Jackson explained his salary recommendation to council:

“The normal hire rate for an employee based on Section 4.02 of the personnel policies is 85 percent of the base salary unless specific prior experience is demonstrated,” said Jackson in a pre-meeting memo. “It takes a new employee four years to reach the base salary. (However) it is recommended - based upon his certification and experience - that Mr. Towne start at 91 percent ($46,960) of the base ($51,604) with the following step increases - first six months, 91 percent of base; six to 12 months, 94 percent of base; 12 to 24 months, 97 percent; and end of second year, 100 percent.”

Towne will also receive 40 hours each of vacation and sick leave.

Due to a Section 6.10 personnel policy residence requirement that states that “all other full time employees shall have a 30 minute response time, effective 90 days from date of employment” the council also had to grant an exception for Towne, due to his wife recently taking a job with Hardin County. The Townes currently have a six month lease in Eldora, and thus needed an extension of the 90 day policy in order for them to finish out their lease and seek residency closer to Story City. Currently, the response time from Eldora is approximately 39 to 40 minutes.

In a matter related to Scott Mathis’ recent resignation, the council agreed with City Administrator Jackson’s recommendation to pay the city’s portion of Mathis’ Cobra health insurance payment for August, which amounts to $1,390.03.

Mathis recently accepted a position with Central Iowa Televising (CIT), and his health insurance plan does not begin with that company until October 1, 2016. His health insurance with the city ended on July 31, 2016, and he elected to stay on the city’s health policy under the Cobra law. Individually, the cost of Cobra coverage would be $1,674.73 per month.

Jackson cited Mathis’ dedication of service, and the fact he had been employed with the city for 24 years, as reason to recommend the council approve paying the city’s share of the monthly premium. In addition, the council stated they may also address his September health premium at a later date, depending on Mathis’ circumstances.

With the recent hiring of Nathan Brockman, Randy Martindale and Towne to the Water/Wastewater Department, plus the exits of former employees Craig Hennager, Scott Mathis and Scott Nibe in the past year, certain members of the council felt the need to address the salary of current water/wastewater employee Jason Loots. Having been given interim co-superintendent duties for nearly six months, prompting a jump in base salary, and the fact he accrued roughly $6,000 in overtime last fiscal year, the council held a lengthy and in-depth discussion on his base salary and earnings, including overtime pay and comparisons with other city departments and employee pay scales.

All three current water/wastewater employees, including Martindale, Loots and Brockman, were present at the meeting, and spoke with council at various times on behalf of one another as well as the department as a whole. The water/wastewater department has been in a state of flux for nearly two years, since the retirement of long-time Superintendent Kevin Jacobson in the fall of 2014, the departures of two other long-time employees Nibe and Mathis, and the lengthy and difficult process in finding a new Superintendent (twice), all of which prompted the council to keep these issues at the forefront of discussions.

For nearly 45 minutes, the council discussed in detail Loots’ pay position, including overtime and base salary. Pay comparisons with various departments of the city were instigated by council member Dave Sporleder, who stated that certain city employees had asked him to look into discrepancies within the city’s pay scales. Both Sporleder and council member Matt Triggs spoke extensively for much of the discussion, addressing Loots, Martindale and Brockman, along with the rest of the council and city administrator Jackson.

Following the extended discussion, council finally approved an adjustment of Loots’ base salary from $58,760 (which was raised from the operator base of $51,604 when he became interim co-superintendent) down to $56,416. This will keep his pay in line with other city employees and departments, namely that of the second in command police sergeant’s salary of the Story City police department.

The Sergeant’s salary of $56,873.01 (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) was the one used most often for comparison sake during the lengthy discussion, and the fact that Loots’ pay for the last fiscal year amounted to over $63,000 (which includes overtime). Loots’ pay was one of the top four gross wages paid within the city for fiscal year 2015-16, which also led to the issue coming to light. The adjustment was addressed and eventually finalized with regards to overtime, length of service, job title and responsibilities, value to the department and the hierarchy of various pay scales throughout all city departments. Council member Triggs and Sporleder also expressed, on more than one occasion, that the council needs to look out for all personnel within the city, not just one individual or a specific department.

In other business, the council:

—approved the contract and performance and/or payment bonds resolution for the Elm Avenue Overlay and Pedestrian Ramp Improvements Project.

—approved pay request #1 for the South Park Improvement Project to Lansink Construction in the amount of $36,826.75 for work completed from June 22 to July 26. Balance remaining on the project is $250,041.25.

—approved pay request #4 for the swimming pool project to Peterson Construction in the amount of $87,473.34. Balance remaining is $1,709,904.40, and the project is still on schedule.

—reviewed building permit for Brad Stellmaker (Stellmaker Services) to construct a one-story new home at 713 Lafayette Avenue at an estimated cost of $340,000.

—reviewed building permit for Nevada Lumber Co. (Eric Gabrielson) to construct a duplex at 918/920 Market Avenue at an estimated cost of $225,000.

—approved Class C liquor license, including outdoor service and Sunday sales, for the Story City American Legion Post.

—set a closed session special council meeting with the Roland-Story school board for Monday, August 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the high school board room.

—went into closed session at 8:20 p.m. at the end of the regular council meeting, pursuant to Iowa Code Section 21.5(J), to discuss the purchase of real estate. The session lasted until approximately 9 p.m.