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Council talks wages, benefits

FAIRMONT–The Fairmont City Council on Monday discussed whether or not to change council member salaries.

Reynolds said the city charter calls for the council to review the salary of the elected officers and officials and to make any adjustments no later than June in each municipal election year.

Currently city code has the mayor’s salary set at $4,800 and council salary is at $2,400 which includes per diem for out of town meetings. It also provides that council members are eligible for all benefits that full-time salaried employees are eligible for.

Mayor and council salaries were provided from other area communities such as St. Peter, Marshall, Brainerd and Albert Lea. Fairmont’s was the lowest for both out of all other communities.

“As I’ve said before and I’ll say out loud again, we’re not really an outlier, but regarding health insurance, for someone who is grossing $2,400 a year and can get a 10 to $15,000 benefit seems totally wrong to me,” said Council Member Bruce Peters.

He noted that some use it and some don’t. He said he thinks they should get paid more and do with the money what they want.

Council Member Britney Kawecki agreed with Peters and said an email had said that council hasn’t received a raise since the 80s. She said as benefits have gone up significantly over the years, for the members who take them it’s a benefit to them.

Council Member Michele Miller asked where the money would come from if they were to increase the pay. Reynolds said any adjustments wouldn’t take place until 2023 and would only affect the three positions that are up for re-election this year. She said whatever happens would go into consideration when they build the 2023 budget.

Peters said it’s a fine line because the council members are doing their job as a public service, not for the money, and they wouldn’t want a large enough salary that people are going into it solely for the money.

Council member Wayne Hasek said he would like to see it stay where it’s at and council member Randy Lubenow agreed. He noted that it’s hard to get people to run for council and the benefits might be a selling point for some. Miller said she would be in favor of keeping it as it is as well.

Ultimately, the council decided not to take any action on the matter.

Moving to other matters, Finance Director Paul Hoye provided the council with the 2021 Aquatic Park report. He said that just under 21,000 people used the facility, which was up from 12,000 in 2020, though Hoye noted they were only open half the season that year. He said it’s typical to numbers of other years though.

As for passes, 52 single passes were sold and 244 family passes were sold.

“That’s the most passes we’ve sold since the park opened in 1999,” Hoye said.

He said the number of people taking private lessons was also up.

The report included that revenues were also good at $193,000, which was $24,000 over budget. Expenses came in at just over $620,000 so there was a loss of $426,000.

Hoye said there was a good number of larger capital projects over the years including pool resurfacing and equipment replacement. The slides have also had some work

done. He said moving forward there will be some smaller projects so they anticipate expenditures to go down.

There are some slight changes in operations regarding personnel. Betsy Steuber has been used more at city hall so they’ve looked at hiring a pool manager who would work under Steuber. They’ve hired someone to hold that position.

Hoye said right now they have 40 lifeguards hired for the season but they’re still looking for seasonal employees so if anyone is interested in lifeguarding they can contact city hall.

The Aquatic Park will be opening June 3. It will be open from noon to 6 p.m. until July 15 and noon to 8 p.m. on weekends. As they get further into the season they’ll be open until 8 p.m. on weeknights as well.

In other news, the council approved a contract with 292 Design Group for architect/engineer services for the proposed community center.

At the April 25 meeting, the council had approved the selection of 292 Design Group and city staff has been working on contract negations since then.

Under the contract, 292 will provide phase one services for $55,000. Phase two fees vary from 6 to 6.6 percent of the construction cost of work depending on the amenities included with the final design.

Peters asked why they’re approving the contract if all of the money needed for the project hasn’t been raised. Lubenow noted that $4.5 million has been raised. Peters pointed out that money has been pledged, not raised.

The council approved of the contract 4-1 with Hasek voting no.

In other action, the council:

— Approved a grant agreement to complete the airport building rehab with the estimated project cost at just under $50,000 and the total local share at just under $15,000, which was budgeted for. The other funds will come from a grant from the state.

— Heard a summary of the May 9 annual evaluation of the performance of City Administrator Cathy Reynolds. Mayor Deb Foster said prior to the session, council and some staff members had completed an evaluation regarding Reynold’s performance. She said overall, the council expressed satisfaction with Reynold’s performance to date. The council recommended a 4 percent salary increase for Reynolds, which was approved at Monday evening’s meeting.

— Imposed a civil penalty of $750 upon the Channel Inn. On Dec. 31, 2021 an employee sold an alcoholic beverage to an underage person who was authorized by the Fairmont Police Department to assist with compliance checks of liquor license holders.

— Imposed a civil penalty upon IYS Ventures, LLC, d/b/a I Mart Stores after failing a tobacco compliance checks executed by the Fairmont Police Department on Dec. 11, 2021. The business was fined $300.

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