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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Retirement Causes Predicament For City Of Marinette Budget

Issue Date: October 25, 2012

For about four days, the Marinette City Council could sleep soundly knowing that a balanced budget was going to be presented at the annual Budget meeting scheduled for Nov. 15 at 4:30 p.m. A predicament arose at the Monday Personnel and License Committee meeting which will undoubtedly change that.

Fire Chief Bob Thull requested permission to initiate the process to refill a department firefighter vacancy created by the recently announced planned retirement of Assistant Chief Tom Brault on Dec. 30. Thull reported that the process has already begun to interview and eventually name a replacement Assistant Chief. The request is to begin the process of hiring another firefighter so that one of the rotating shifts of firemen is not a man short for duty.

The actual decision to fill the vacancy caused no problems for the Personnel and License Committee but the timing of the hiring did. Along with Brault’s retirement comes a contracted retirement payout made up of unused vacation and sick time. In Brault’s case, the amount totals over $30,000. By approving the request of Thull to have the vacancy filled by Jan. 1 means the city will have to come up with the pay-out amount in some way.

Committee Chairman David Buechler initially favored hiring the firefighter right away but not having the person begin until early May. This would allow the vacant salary to be used for the retirement payout.

Thull was opposed to this idea because, primarily, it would place one of his shifts a man short. According to state law, his department cannot enter a burning structure with only four firefighters.

Granted the cities of Marinette and Menominee have an automatic mutual aid agreement, but Thull could easily envision times when Menominee is busy with a call and thus putting the city in a position of having to rely upon a MABAS request, which could take up to 20 minutes for someone to arrive. If a person is trapped in the burning structure, 20 minutes is just not a good scenario.

Thull was also opposed to Buechler’s idea of paying overtime until May because of the effect it would have on his crews. He also recalled years in the recent past where manpower shortages caused overtime charges in the $100,000 range and higher.

Alderperson Carol Kempka spoke up, saying that she was not in favor of sacrificing staff for the sake of a retirement pay-out.

After several minutes of discussion and where and how the city would find the money for it, Kempka made the motion to allow the process of filling the vacancy to begin, with the employment commencing at the beginning of January 2013. Alderperson Bradley Behrendt seconded the motion, which passed on a unanimous vote.

Another agenda item that caused some disagreement was the request to establish a salary or salary range for a Legal Assistant Position to be hired to replace the retiring current Legal Assistant. The request came from City Attorney Jonathon Sbar, who is ready to begin the interview process with selected applicants.

City ordinance does establish a pay range for the office, but there is a great deal of flexibility in the scale. Kempka made a motion to set the hourly wage at $18.14, an amount that would be at the low end of the scale. The motion died for lack of a second.

Alderperson Sandra Saunier would then make a motion to allow Sbar to choose a range between $20.58 and $23.22 per hour, based upon experience, etc. This range was in the middle to the top of the pay scale. This motion, too, died for lack of a second.

Alderperson Behrendt then offered a motion somewhere between the two prior motions. He moved to set the starting hourly wage at $20.68 with Sbar’s discretion to go up to $21.95, again based upon experience. Saunier seconded the motion, which passed by a vote of 3-1, with Kempka voting in the negative. Alderperson Scott Wahl was absent.

In other matters before the Committee, an application for a Pawnbroker, 2nd Hand Article Dealer and 2nd Hand Jewelry Dealer License from Francois Enterprises, Inc., for a business known as Feldstein Jewelers at 2001 Marinette Ave., was approved.

Temporary Class B fermented Malt Beverage and Wine applications for St. Thomas Aquinas Academy for an event being held on Jan. 26, 2013 and April 7, 2013 at 1200 Main Street, were approved.

New Operator Licenses were approved for Stacey Bruno, Tracy Crago, Nicole Hewitt, Patricia Londo, Shanena Mechalson, Katherine Plong, Scott Saunier, Jamiee Sievert, and Krystal Willis.

The committee also approved rules for a Former Union Sick Bank Volunteer Committee from the former Teamsters Clerical Union and the former AFSCME Union. Within the past few months, the City has allowed the past practice of operating a Sick Bank by the former unions to continue.

Prior to the close of the meeting, the Committee entered into Closed Session to consider a recommendation from the Former Union Sick Bank Volunteer Committee and a request from an employee for award of sick leave from the former Union Sick Bank.


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