Some Steamboat City Council members want city employees to return to full workweek

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— Some members of the Steamboat Springs City Council said Tuesday night that they want to find a way to bring all of the city's employees back to a full workweek next year.

“I think that it's time,” council President Bart Kounovsky said at the start of a council work session to determine five major goals for the body in 2013. “I think the community is asking for City Hall to be open five days a week.”

City Hall lost a day of service and city employees had their hours cut from 40 to 36 hours in 2009, when Steamboat implemented a furlough program that required city employees to reduce their hours and compensation by 10 percent. Police patrol officers, firefighters, paramedics, transit drivers and dispatchers and part-time employees were exempt from the furloughs that were projected to save nearly $900,000 when they were adopted by the City Council.

Kounovsky said that in the wake of the major economic recession, other cities have found ways to return their employees to a full schedule. He said Steamboat should be able to do the same.

But at least one council member expressed reservations about returning all city employees to a full work schedule as early as next year.

“I'm not sure we're seeing the end of (the recession) particularly in our small area here,” Cari Hermacinski said. “I understand why employees want to come back (to the 40-hour week), but we need to understand we represent 12,000 people, not just” city employees.

Hermacinski said that although sales tax revenue has shown signs of growth during the past year, revenue from building-use taxes is $300,000 below what it was projected to be this year.

“I know 2013 is going to be a particularly challenging year because development hasn't returned to a large scale,” she said.

Council member Sonja Macys said she supported the idea of having discussions with employees and whomever is hired as the new city manager to determine whether the employees could return to the 40-hour week.

She added she wasn't sure whether having everyone at 40 hours is the answer.

Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark provided council with five options to keep city buildings open five days each week. They ranged from keeping employees at a 36-hour week and adopting a work schedule that runs from 9 a.m. to 5:15 each day to returning all employees to full time.

To do the latter, Hinsvark estimated it would cost the city $700,000.

In addition to discussing the work schedules of city employees, the council also voted to establish a list of other goals for next year.

In the wake of City Manager Jon Roberts' resignation, council members agreed they should work to establish a clear “metric” system and list of expectations to evaluate whoever becomes the next city manager.

And as they prepare to decide Dec. 18 whether to move forward with the sale of the downtown emergency services building, the council also listed the relocation of the police and firefighters who work in that building as a top goal.

Other meeting highlights:

• The council voted unanimously to approve a pay raise for Hinsvark to compensate her for the added work responsibilities she took on in October.

Until a permanent city manager is hired, Hinsvark, who was serving as deputy city manager when Job Roberts resigned in October, will earn an additional $1,000 per month.

According to city attorney Tony Lettunich, Hinsvark's current annual base salary is $133,407, and her interim salary will be $145,407, which is about $8,000 less than Roberts' salary was at the time of his resignation.

• The council discussed whether it was appropriate for city staff to use “work product” to keep from the public some emails and sensitive communications sent to council members.

The conversation started after Hermacinski said she was troubled to receive a memo on the practice from Lettunich.

Lettunich said the practice allows city staff to share first drafts of such things as studies and reports more candidly with the council without worrying about whether the information will get to the public.

He said to release emails and communications staff has labeled work product, a majority of the council would have to approve its release.

Several council members said they were opposed to the practice, and Lettunich said he would advise city staff to expect anything they send to council members to become public.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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