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Colfax approves hiring full-time public works employee

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  The Colfax Village Board has approved hiring a full-time employee for the department of public works at a beginning wage of $16 to $19 per hour.

The Colfax Village Board and the board’s personnel committee met October 3 to consider hiring another full-time employee.

The personnel committee includes the entire village board, but while Scott Gunnufson, village president, chairs the village board meetings, Village Trustee Annie Schieber chairs the personnel committee.

Rand Bates, director of public works, has requested another full-time employee.

Keinn Steffe, who was employed for 32 hours per week in the department of public works, left the position earlier this summer to take a full-time position in Ridgeland.

Bates said he had advertised for a part-time general laborer to help out the department of public works but only received a few inquiries from people interested in a full-time position.

The village eventually hired Colfax High School student Austin Dressel for the part-time laborer position.

Dressel is in the school’s cooperative program and is able to work for the village in the afternoon but must leave at 3 p.m., Bates said.

The department of public works needs a full-time person who can drive heavy equipment and who is certified, or who is willing to become certified, as a water operator and for wastewater management, he said.

Plowing snow is now a three-person job, with two people working with the blower equipment and another person on the end loader working around the rest of the village, Bates said.

In the past, the village moved all the snow from Main Street, put it in big piles on River Street and then hauled the snow away. With the blower equipment, Main Street can be cleaned up in one day, he said.

“We don’t have a third guy now for the blower … we had it figured out, but now we are a guy short,” Bates said.

The other consideration is that public works employee Don Logslett is planning to retire in several years, he said.

Bates noted that he and Logslett both have the water and wastewater certifications, so it would not be necessary to hire someone who already has the certifications.

“Heavy equipment is more important at the moment,” Bates said, adding that driving a piece of equipment like the end loader is not a skill people have automatically.

Certifications

Keinn Steffe began his employment with Colfax already certified for water and wastewater.

Tests for the licenses (general wastewater, ponds and lagoons, mechanical plant and activated sludge) cost $25 each, and one course of schooling covers all of the categories, Bates said.

The village could help with the cost of schooling, but that would not guarantee the person is going to stay employed at Colfax, he said, adding that he would advocate for the person hired to pay for the schooling and the testing for the licenses.

“That is your license. It goes with the employee if he leaves,” Bates said.

The Village of Elk Mound, which typically has operated with a three-person department of public works, is in a situation now where one employee, who obtained all the necessary certifications, left the position after a year and a half and one of the other employees is going to retire soon, he said.

Bates said he would very much appreciate it if Colfax did not find itself in the same situation.

Numbers

Lynn Niggemann, administrator-clerk-treasurer, provided wage and benefit numbers for the village board and personnel committee.

A 40-hour per week position at $16 an hour would cost $33,280 per year for wages, $2.545.92 for Social Security and Medicare, and $2,263.04 for the Wisconsin Retirement System for an annual total of $38,088.96.

A 32-hour per week position at $12 cost the village $20,424 in wages, $1,562.44 for Social Security and Medicare, and no payments into WRS for a total of $21,986.44.

At $18 per hour, the cost for wages would be $37,440, and $2,864.16 for Social Security and Medicare, along with $2,545.92 for WRS, for a total of $42,850.08.

The village currently pays 90 percent of the health insurance premium, and the actual cost for health insurance depends on the age of the employee and the number of people in the family, Niggemann said.

The numbers Niggemann provided were based on a 41-year-old employee.

Health insurance for the employee only would be $375.99 per month. The health insurance premium would be $940.22 per month for the employee and spouse, and $1,167.49 for the employee and a family with one child, $1,394.76 for the employee and a family with two children, and $1,622.03 for the employee and a family with three children.

The village also pays for dental insurance, which amounts to $40.24 per month for the employee, $80.48 per month for the employee and a spouse, $125.19 for the employee and a family with one child.

A $25,000 life insurance policy costs the village $8.25 per month for the employee.

Pay range

The village should pay a decent wage “so we can find someone we can get to stay,” Bates said.

Schieber suggested $16 per hour for someone with no experience and $18 per hour for someone with experience.

Niggemann was of the opinion that $16 an hour would be the minimum the village should consider offering.

The pay for the public works employee would be spread out over four different departments in the village, Bates said.

Higher pay and full-time work might inspire more people to apply for the job, Niggemann said, adding that she had recently gone to a labor seminar and a lack of people applying for job openings “seems to be a common problem now.”

Keith Burcham, village trustee, noted that in his “younger days” he did not worry about something like health insurance.

“But now, if you’ve got insurance for a family of four, that’s a $30 an hour job,” he said.

Bates agreed about younger people not necessarily being concerned with health insurance.

But “you have to have insurance. It is huge now. You cannot afford to not have it,” he said.

The new full-time position in the department of public works would become effective as of January 1.

The Colfax Village Board and the Personnel Committee unanimously approved a motion to advertise a full-time position in the department of public works with a starting range of $16 to $19 per hour.

Village Trustees Casey Rihn and Carey Davis were absent from the meeting.

The village will begin advertising for the position at the end of October or early November.

The new employee would not necessarily be required to start work on January 1, Bates said.

A construction worker who is laid off during the winter has helped with snow removal in the past and has indicated a willingness to do so again, he said.

Even February 1 for the new village employee to start would be acceptable, Bates said.