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Minot City Council creates temporary assistant position

Jill Schramm/MDN Mayor Shaun Sipma, left, addresses the council Monday night as city clerk Kelly Matalka and council members Shannon Straight and Lisa Olson, from left, look on.

Minot’s city manager will get an assistant under a proposal accepted by the Minot City Council Tuesday.

The plan wasn’t without public opposition and questions from the council, but the goal is to give a department head the opportunity to assist administratively while helping reduce the backlog of work facing City Manager Tom Barry. The cost for the temporary position is estimated at $12,000 to $15,000.

“We’re attempting to create a special assignment position, which would be a term position for about 12 to 15 months to allow us to essentially get through a large workload that’s before us,” Barry said. “We’re essentially looking to allow a existing staff member at the department head level to come in and essentially take on additional duties and get compensated for those additional duties to help us move through the workload.”

He added it is possible if the workload continues, the temporary position may last longer than 15 months, or an alternative approach might need to be considered down the road.

Mayor Shaun Sipma said the workload includes the strategic planning initiative the city is developing, the flood protection project, the National Disaster Resilience Program and other city initiatives.

Council member Shannon Straight questioned approving the position without having a panel in place for selecting a candidate. Barry proposed a panel of five that would include himself, the human resources director and a council member as well as others who were unidentified.

Straight questioned whether a department head would be available to commit 35% to 40% of work time to the special assignment. Council member Paul Pitner asked about any workload that might get placed on other employees in the department if the director is on special assignment.

Barry said the request is for a special assignment that goes beyond time already being committed, which is why there is financial compensation associated with the position.

“It is essentially sort of an overtime situation,” he said. However, he added, “We have to make sure that the department director is not only the right person that has the skills and capabilities, but also has the time and also has the support behind them in their organization that they’re going to be stepping a little bit away from as they take on this role.”

“We’re getting conflicting signals here,” said Minot resident Tim Greenheck, a former city council member. “In the write-up, it says that this is going to consume about 30 to 40 percent of the department head’s time. It doesn’t say anything about overtime, doesn’t say anything about working after hours. It says 35 to 40 percent of their time. So what is the deal here? What’s the actual truth? If they are working full time and doing their job, why are they delegating stuff to subordinates?”

Barry said the position requires 35% to 40% of a full-time equivalent position. Some of that might come from a department head’s regular daytime duties and a portion would come from overtime.

“It’s all going to be dependent upon the talent and skills of the individual that ends up in a position,” Barry said.

Greenheck responded a department head who devotes time to the special assignment during regular work hours should not be compensated for those hours.

“What kind of signal does this send to the other employees? You don’t have to put in your eight-hour day. You can go put two hours in over here, and they’re going to get compensated extra for that?” he said.

Greenheck mentioned the city manager’s 12.5% pay increase in a recently approved contract. He said either Barry should do more for that $20,000 or the city can use that money to hire an assistant.

“You’re getting two bites of the apple here. The public is not going to go for this, and I guarantee I’m not the only one that’s feeling this way,” Greenheck said.

The council voted 5-1 to pursue selecting a department head for the special assignment. Straight voted no, and Stephan Podrygula was absent.

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