Oak Creek hires new worker

Town Board gets background check during meeting

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— The Oak Creek Town Board hired a fifth public works employee Thursday night, even though a background check the board requested during the meeting revealed at least two prior arrests.

After voting unanimously to hire the town's only applicant for the public works position, the board immediately approved an amendment to rescind the hire if a background check revealed a criminal record.

The Town Board wasted no time in getting the information. Mayor Cargo Rodeman asked Oak Creek officer Jason Lunnen to run a background check and report the results to the board.

Rodeman said she asked the police department to run a background check earlier, but she had not heard back from any officer.

The applicant's employment with the town should be contingent on a clean criminal record, she said. So while Rodeman and the board moved on with other business, Lunnen ran the background check, returning with news of a search that revealed one charge of driving while ability impaired and one charge of third degree assault.

The board took no action after hearing the results of the background check.

The town needs an employee with the applicant's skills, trustees said. The new public works employee holds a "B" certification in water and sewer works.

The federal government passed a law that requires municipalities to employ people with "B" certification in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Prior to Thursday evening, Oak Creek employed two full-time employees and two part-time employees, but no employees held the required B operator license.

Trustee Mike Kien admitted his hesitation about hiring a fifth public works employee at last week's special board meeting.

"I was a little leery about inventing a brand new position in the public works department," he said.

But Kien added the town should take advantage of the willingness of such a qualified applicant to work for a low salary. The new public works employee agreed to work full-time for an entry-level salary of $15 an hour.

Kien suggested the town eventually return to three public works employees.

Attrition might allow the town to, in time, eliminate unnecessary positions without firing any employees, he said.

He saw no way to get around the requirement for a properly certified public works employee.

"We've got to do something," he said.

Trustee John Crawford said the new public works employee's previous experience would be an asset to the town.

Rodeman acknowledged the need for another full-time public works employee. "We need all the help we can get," she said.

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