Negaunee council plans for new employees

The Negaunee City Council and city staff on Thursday discusses adding three new employees to its workforce. Though not official until the council adopts its budget later this year, the move would add a planning and zoning position, as well as ones in the police and public works departments. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

NEGAUNEE — The Negaunee City Council has worked three additional employees into the city’s 2018 budget in an effort to create forward momentum.

Although the move is not official until the budget is adopted later this year, council members agreed at a budget work session Thursday to add an additional police officer, second mechanic for the Department of Public Works, and a new city planning and zoning position.

The council had originally considered budgeting for four new positions within the city, but opted to exclude a new employee for its water and sewer department.

The planning and zoning position is expected to cost the city $56,750 per year, according to the 2018 budget, and all costs related to it will come out of the city’s general fund.

The position will be non-union, but parameters such as sick time and personal or vacation time are based off of current city hall employment contracts, city manager secretary Ann Ducoli said.

Mayor Don Gladwell said the planning and zoning position will point the city on a path to economic development.

“I keep coming back to the fact that this is going to enable us to get grants, and the position will ultimately pay for itself,” Gladwell said.

Councilman Nick Visser said the position would allow the city to focus long-term solutions for city buildings and infrastructure as well.

“It’s just been Band-Aids for so long, we just can’t do it anymore,” Visser said.

Council members were also supportive of the addition of a police officer for the city.

The department is on track to spend over $35,000 in overtime in 2017, Police Chief Jay Frusti said.

The new officer would start out at $18.48 per hour based on the city/union contract, or about $38,438 annually — not including health and retirement benefits, Frusti said.

In addition to normal duties performed by NPD officers, the new employee would be responsible for ordinance enforcement within the city.

The final position proposed in the 2018 budget was a certified mechanic to work in the DPW.

Interim DPW Director Don Larson, who was present at the work session, had submitted a request for the water and sewer employee in addition to the new DPW mechanic position.

Councilman Toby Smith said the council should be very careful when adding new positions due to legacy costs. He said 75 percent of the city’s budget is spent on employees.

“If you had to choose,” Smith asked Larson, “what would be the more pressing position?”

Larson said the mechanic position would be the best choice based on the size and age of the DPW fleet.

“We have well over 100 pieces of equipment, six plows, the newest is 25 years old,” he said. “Our dump trucks are in the same boat, they are 26 years old, 24 years old, 21 years old, and 18 years old; it’s hard for one person to keep up.”

Larson said in cities roughly the same size as Negaunee, two mechanics are the standard.

“Ishpeming has two mechanics and one greaser-oiler and Iron Mountain has two mechanics,” Larson said.

A certified mechanic would start out making $21.16 per hour according to the existing city/union contract, or $44,012 annually, excluding health or retirement benefits.

The council is expected to approve the 2018 budget at its regular meeting in November.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.