The city of Waupaca’s parks and recreation director position would be filled and a facility superintendent would be created under a staffing plan being considered as part of the city’s 2013 budget.
“I don’t think this is a real out-there request for you to consider. We’re asking you to put positions back,” City Administrator Henry Veleker said during a Sept. 11 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Parks Superintendent Russ Montgomery has been the acting parks and recreation director since September 2010. The appointment followed Jim Ash’s resignation from the position in May 2010.
The city’s maintenance custodian position has been vacant since October 2009. In 2010, the city moved the cleaning function in house for City Hall and the police station.
In the fall of 2010, there was also a discussion about creating a facility superintendent, but with a tight budget, it was not included.
The 2011 budget did include funding to fill the vacant economic development director position and for a new recreation program supervisor.
The recreation position replaced a full-time administrative assistant position in the parks and recreation department.
Aaron Jenson was hired in 2011 as the recreation program supervisor.
However, the economic development director position – vacant since August 2009 – was not filled that year. The city advertised and interviewed candidates.
The position was offered to one of them, who ended up turning it down. His wife was a teacher, and they were uncomfortable moving after the upheaval in Madison that year.
A second candidate for the position turned it down, citing salary requirements.
The city is again recruiting for that position, with applications due on Sept. 28.
Veleker told the council that what precipitated this most recent proposal were two things.
The first was a concern that a current employee has been an acting department head for more than two years, and the second was a request from the city’s Senior Center Advisory Committee to increase staffing in the senior center, he said.
Last spring, Ald. Deb Fenske requested that Montgomery be appointed the parks and recreation director, Veleker said. She brought that request to the city’s Personnel Committee.
Veleker said he spoke at that meeting, asking to be given the opportunity to look at staffing, saying it should be part of the city’s budget process.
The committee delayed making a decision.
The senior citizen coordinator position, held by Teri Moe, is part-time. In addition to filling the parks director position and a new facility superintendent position, the proposal includes an additional $10,000 for part-time labor and supplies in the senior center.
That request was made due to expansion of programming at the center.
Veleker said if the 2013 budget could not fully fund the addition of the positions, they could be partially funded next year and then fully funded in 2014.
The annual cost of the parks and recreation director position would be $67,800, he said.
Once the parks and recreation director position is filled, the city’s park superintendent position will be eliminated.
Some of those duties will then be part of the facility superintendent position – a position that will report to Director of Public Works John Edlebeck.
The annual cost of the park superintendent position is $62,500.
Under this scenario, there would be four full-time staff in the Parks and Recreation Department and five part-time employees. Personnel related costs would total $525,900, according to Veleker.
There are currently four full-time positions and seven part-time positions in the department with personnel related costs totaling $523,255.
Three of the seven part-time positions are custodial positions, which would be moved under the new facility superintendent position. Another part-time custodial staff member would also be under the superintendent’s supervision.
The annual cost for this area is estimated at $130,000 and would include $10,000 for training and bonus/pay increases. The bonus and pay increases would be for Montgomery if he were to move into that position.
Much of the Sept. 11 meeting centered on the filling of the parks and recreation director position after Veleker explained that it will be an open, advertised position current staff are eligible to apply for.
“Russ could apply for it. Other staff in the department could also apply. We’ve always advertised open positions,” he said.
Veleker said that if Montgomery applied for and received the director position, the facility superintendent position would be open.
If Montgomery was not hired to be the parks and recreation director, he would move into the facility superintendent position, Veleker said.
After Fenske asked if this plan is set in stone, Veleker said, “It’s just a proposal.”
Fenske said, “Personally, I don’t think we have to go out and look. It’s an insult to him to say we have to go out and look.”
She added that she thinks he is “doing a hell of a job.”
Ald. Jim Boyer agreed, saying, “I have to agree with Deb. I don’t understand why we have to go and find a director when Russ is doing an A-1 job.”
In regard to the facility superintendent position, Veleker said he believes it would be best to have one person supervising the custodial staff.
He also said the person in that position would do special projects and worked on energy savings.
“I view it as getting the right team assembled to lead the team,”
Veleker said the goal is to get the right leadership and the right team.
“In the Park and Rec department, we don’t have a quarterback,” he said.
If the council likes the idea of a facility superintendent, a job description will need to be developed, he said.
“It would be a working position that is available to all departments,” he said.
Speaking to Montgomery, Veleker said the current situation is unfair to both him and the department.
Veleker met individually with the park and rec staff, including with Montgomery, to ask them what is and is not working in the department.
He said he did so in confidence and told the council they could talk to him about what he learned without him telling members of the council who said what.
“That would be hearsay,” Fenske said. “I’d rather have the employees come to me. Otherwise, it is hearsay, because they told you in confidence.”
Fenske also said to Montgomery, “I want to know what the difference is between what Jim Ash did – and we all know what he did – and what you’re doing.”
Montgomery said the first the staff heard of the proposal was on the morning of Sept. 11.
Veleker promised to tell the park and rec staff before presenting it to the council.
Ald. Paul Mayou said he wants to see the numbers in the budget proposal, regardless of who fills the positions.
“I think Russ is doing a good job,” he said, “but with a high profile position like this, you have to open it up.”
Mayor Brian Smith said that by city ordinance, the mayor would make the parks and recreation director appointment, with council recommendation.
Veleker said, “The way I see it, if he is the best candidate and wins it, you know you have the full department behind it.”
He also noted that Police Chief Tim Goke and Library Director Peg Burington both went through the same process.
Goke said he served as the interim chief for eight months. He had to apply and interview for the vacant chief position.
Burington was the assistant library director when Library Director Jerry Brown retired and also served as the interim director, ultimately applying for and being named the director.
Ald. Paul Lehman said cost will ultimately determine the outcome and whether it fits into the budget.
The mayor said Montgomery is an asset to the city and has done a good job under a difficult situation.
“From what I’ve seen from the proposal, if he doesn’t get the (director) position, he will get the other job,” Smith said.
Fenske asked, “How can you do that? You’re opening up the other (director).”
Smith said one is a department head position, while the other is a supervisory position.
To the members of the council, he then said, “You have every right to reach out to employees. I strongly suggest that you do that. It will make the decision easier as you go through the process. There is no doubt that we have to have a department head.”