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Fairmont councilman would rehire Humpal

FAIRMONT — One member’s desire to rehire Mike Humpal as city administrator was revealed at the Fairmont City Council meeting earlier this week.

The issue arose when Councilman Randy Lubenow said an individual had expressed concerns about the council’s decision earlier this month to hire a search firm to find a new city administrator.

The council placed Humpal on paid administrative leave on Oct. 14 by a 3-2 vote, with Lubenow, Tom Hawkins and Ruth Cyphers voting in the majority, and Bruce Peters and Wayne Hasek dissenting. On Nov. 15, following an 18-minute closed session, the council ended Humpal’s employment with the same split vote.

“They had talked to one of Mr. Peters’ insurance clients, and Mr. Peters had told them that once they can change the council, he had every indication that he was going to bring Mr. Humpal back as city administrator,” Lubenow said.

The council seats currently held by Hawkins, Cyphers and Hasek will be on the ballot in November.

“So I was just wondering why you voted to have a search firm, to pay $25,000 if that was your intent to bring Mr. Humpal back?” Lubenow asked Peters.

Peters said he could not guarantee that the council’s composition will change but admitted his wish to rehire Humpal if it does.

“What I said was, it would be my desire to attempt to hire Mr. Humpal back,” he said, adding that he thought the city was “frittering money away” by hiring the search firm. “That’s my intent, to try and bring him back to run the team that he assembled, and it’s a very good team with quality people.”

Lubenow asked if the search was going to continue or if the process would be delayed until after the election.

Mayor Debbie Foster pointed out that the council vote to hire the search firm was unanimous.

“It sent a clear message that we’re on board,” she said. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t move forward with the search. It was a 5-0 vote, and that’s what we’re going with. That’s the message we sent.”

In another matter, the council discussed Peters’ request to seek bids to host the city’s website, a contract currently held by AdMfg, a company owned by Cyphers, that has had a contract since 2017 not to exceed $7,500 per year. Cyphers agreed to abstain from all discussion and voting on the matter.

Paul Hoye, city finance director, said AdMfg was hired in 2014 to build the city’s website, and the company has been hosting it since at a rate of $40 per month. He noted that most changes to the site are done by a city employee unless added expertise is needed from AdMfg.

He added that the $7,500 annual contract includes other advertising materials, such as newsletters, that the city might need.

Peters said city staff had expressed the desire for changes in the website and recommended getting bids on a new design and hosting.

Hawkins downplayed the monthly hosting cost and expressed his preference for the existing site.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good website,” he said. “At this point, I don’t see a reason to spend thousands of dollars to redo it. It works pretty well, but if there is a desire to update and do it all new, I guess I’d consider that.”

Peters acknowledged that the issues city staff had are with AdMfg as well as the website.

“There’s some discomfort working with AdMfg given the actions that we (council) have taken with individual employees over the last 12 months. That’s where it’s coming from,” he said.

“Who is hearing these complaints besides Bruce?” asked Lubenow. “If all city staff is under the city administrator, maybe if they have complaints, Bruce, you could direct them to Mark (Sievert, interim administrator). I’m just saying, I don’t hear directly from staff if there’s a problem with things.”

Foster supported opening the web hosting to bidding.

“We haven’t done that for a number of years, and there are new people in Fairmont that might like the opportunity to do that. We shouldn’t stifle that opportunity,” she said.

Lubenow then asked if the city was going to do bidding for other outside business.

“We do that for the majority of services,” Hoye said. “There are some where we don’t have a regular scheduled time where we bid it out. Other times, it’s led by businesses. If a business approaches us and expresses interest, we’ll bid it out then.”

Peters repeated his reasoning behind the proposal for bids.

“Again, the concern that was brought to me was that there are people that work here that are not comfortable working with AdMfg given what the council has done to other people,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to advertise for bids to host the website, with Cyphers abstaining. Sievert was instructed to check with city staff about their opinions on a new website.

In other business, the council:

o Learned that eight spots on the 15-member Fairmont Charter Commission will expire March 16. The slots are open to Fairmont citizens as well as expiring commission members who may reapply. The council will approve the list of applicants, but the final selection of members is determined by a district judge. Interested residents should contact Patty Monsen, city clerk, at City Hall.

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