McGregor Council at stalemate on setting employee wages

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Members of the McGregor Council came to a stalemate at their June 19 regular meeting on setting city employee wages for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The council was presented with a resolution giving all employees a 3 percent raise, which mayor Lyle Troester said accounts for an increase in cost of living.

City administrator Lynette Sander added that the wages were included in the budget the council passed earlier this year, and the 3 percent increase falls in line with what the city typically does. It’s also comparable to other local entities, she noted: the county upped wages 2.5 percent and both the Mar-Mac Unified Police District and city of Marquette upped them by 3 percent.

Council members Joe Muehlbauer and Rogeta Halvorson took issue with approving the raises before annual employee performance reviews have been completed.

“I’ve never known it to be for cost of living,” said Halvorson. “People who do well should get rewarded.”

“It’s just the procedure,” Muehlbauer stressed. “They’re still going to get pay raises.”

Troester wondered what the point of a review was then.

“The reviews are not going to affect this,” he said, so why not pass the resolution? “You can still do the reviews” afterward.

In the past, Halvorson said reviews have been done after July 1, then wages made retroactive.

“People on the council would like to see reviews done,” she stressed.

As part of the city’s personnel committee, councilwoman Janet Hallberg said she and Muehlbauer should have conducted reviews at least a month ago, if they were going to do so. She didn’t believe it was fair to penalize the employees for reviews not being completed.

Muehlbauer said they should have been reminded by city administration.

“It’s been nuts here,” acknowledged Sander, referencing issues with flooding. She warned the council of the importance of keeping wages current, in order to retain quality workers.

Hallberg said the employees’ work effort, particularly this spring, largely speaks for itself.

“If you’re in town, you’re watching the guys and seeing what they’re doing,” she remarked. “That’s a review.”

Muehlbauer, who at the start of the discussion suggesting tabling the resolution until reviews were conducted, later withdrew his motion. Hallberg then made a motion to approve the wages, but it died for lack of a second.

City seeking RFQs for Main Street sewer project

The council approved sending out requests for qualifications to engineering firms for preparation of a preliminary engineering report, final plans and construction inspection and engineering services for a major sewer improvement project in the community.

The proposed project will address sewer main infiltration and inflow problems in the 100 to 600 blocks of Main Street and as needed on A Street from Main to First Street. It may include replacement of sewer mains and manholes, the addition of manholes, and the exploration of options to correct issues related to a siphon located at Main and A streets that must move sewage from lower Main Street under the historic storm sewer channel that is located on A Street. As an alternative to replacement, the engineer may determine if other options, such as pipe bursting or lining, are feasible to reduce traffic flow problems that will result in the business district, which is part of Highway 76/U.S. Business 18.

“There’s triple-A asterisk importance on this,” said mayor Troester, who’s hopeful the project can resolve the issues that have necessitated the pumps on Main Street and Triangle Park this spring and summer.

The council approved submitting an application for a State Revolving Fund (SRF) planning and design loan for the project. 

“I don’t think we’ll get turned down, since most of the state knows we need help,” Sander said.

The city is also considering a variety of other funding options through both state and federal entities.

In the meantime, McGregor’s street supervisor, Ren Pape, said people should refrain from flushing any products but toilet paper into the system.

“Half the problems with the sewer are from what people are flushing,” he told the council. The pump on Main Street quit working last week, “because it was packed with stuff that shouldn’t be going down to the sewer plant.”

Parking, speeding concerns discussed

Residents Joe and Sharon Brooks attended the meeting, bringing up concerns on two city streets. The biggest was on Second Street, where they say residents, who don’t have off-street parking, have no place to park. They wondered if the city could restrict parking in that area, which is a dead-end street, to residents only. 

Mar-Mac Police Chief Robert Millin, who was also in attendance at the meeting, feared creating private parking on a public street would set a bad precedent; residents on other streets would want the same, he said. Instead, he suggested the city consider vacating the street and turning it into a parking lot, accessible only to those with permits. 

The other street the Brookses brought up was Center Street, where they said people are driving too fast, especially considering the addition of more children in the neighborhood. They wondered if speed bumps could be installed.

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