Leaders still examining public works proposal

Wahpeton 3rd Ward Councilman Brett Lambrecht and Mayor Steve Dale discussed the salary and benefits of public works employees affected by a proposed restructuring. The full council may decide on the restructuring within the next 2-4 weeks.

Close scrutiny replaced heightened emotions Tuesday, July 9 at Wahpeton City Hall.

A proposed restructuring of the city public works department was reviewed by the full Wahpeton Public Works and Safety Committee. The Wahpeton City Council may approve or deny the restructuring within the next 2-4 weeks.

Wahpeton Public Works Director Dennis Miranowski, speaking to a majority of the council on Monday, July 8, said four jobs including his own were at stake. On Tuesday, Miranowski reiterated his request for action before another council majority.

“(I’m asking) that the decisions are made as quickly as possible, just so we know — ourselves personally and our families — where we’re at. I would ask that of the council,” Miranowski said.

Councilman Brett Lambrecht, 3rd Ward, examined a claim made by Mayor Steve Dale. The leaders had a back and forth exchange.

“Are you looking at leaving the current employees’ salaries where they’re at, or are you looking at changing their salaries?” Lambrecht asked.

“Current employees that are on the new proposed chart would stay where they are at,” Dale said.

“With salaries and benefits?” Lambrecht asked.

“Yes,” Dale said.

“Same pay?” Lambrecht asked.

“Yes,” Dale said.

A few minutes later, the idea of job descriptions significantly changing led to another round of questioning.

If he remains the public works director, Miranowski said, his salary stays the same. If the work chart changes and the public works director position is replaced by an operations manager position, the salary changes.

“I think the mayor said yesterday the salary range would be between $80,000-$100,000. If that position was offered to me and I was able to get it, there would be a $20,000 pay cut,” Miranowski said.

If current employees stay in their current job description and do the current functions of those job descriptions, Councilwoman-at-large Tiana Bohn said, the salary and benefits would remain the same.

“My question to you is that if the four employees are going to have a change (in job description), their salary and benefits could change then, you’re saying. If they have a change in job description? Correct?” Lambrecht asked Dale.

“Correct,” Dale said.

Bohn, the public works committee chair, presided over the meeting. She asked that the conversation remain objective but acknowledged the challenge involved.

“This is an informational item,” Bohn said. “We are looking for information, discovering whether we can become more efficient in either revising the organization by job description or the actual organization itself.”

Bohn mentioned three possible outcomes: a different organizational chart, revised job descriptions to adequately reflect or change inefficiencies or operations, or no change at all.

Discussion is expected to continue through July.

All four members of the public works committee attended Tuesday’s meeting. Half of the four-member finance committee also attended. The only absent members on Tuesday were 1st Ward Councilman Rory McCann and Councilman-at-large Lane Wateland, who both attended Monday’s meeting. Bohn was the only council member to be absent from Monday’s meeting.

The next city council meeting is at 5 p.m. Monday, July 15 at City Hall, 1900 Fourth St. N. in Wahpeton.

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