cit council

City of Wessington Springs employees and council met last Wednesday to discuss personnel policy at city hall. 

A special meeting last Wednesday dedicated to discussing personnel policy, specifically compensatory, or “comp” time (paid time off given to an employee instead of overtime pay in compensation for extra hours of work), brought city employees, councilmen and the mayor together to the same table in front of more than a dozen  members of the public. 

Mayor Kathy Voorhees opened the discussion by reading from a prepared statement, beginning “by providing those present with some background leading up to tonight’s meeting.” 

Voorhees stated that she has “brought up the issue of oversight on compensatory time with this council on several occasions, with no action taken.” 

Lively discussion ensued and ward three councilman Joe Hettinger pointed to figures discussed at the previous meeting. 

“At the last meeting we got fed a bunch of (comp time) figures and that’s why we didn’t act on it,” Hettinger said.

“No that’s not why you didn’t act on it,” Voorhees answered. 

“Yes it is. Because it was over inflated. Sixty-some thousand, that’s a lot,” Hettinger said.  

Voorhees and Hettinger continued to discuss the comp time figures in question and finance office Linda Willman stated that the comp time amounts were given to the council at the December 30, 2019 meeting. 

“I showed you on December 30. I had it printed out before we paid the payroll. I have the copy right here,” she explained. 

Conversation then moved to Mayor Voorhees’ proposed changes to the personnel policy, which she read aloud.

The proposed policy would add that “comp time shall be applied for and approved at the discretion of the mayor and the committee head prior to the performance of any such work.” She also proposed that “the maximum amount of comp time that may be accrued is 20 hours and must be used in 30 days. Comp time may not be carried over into the next fiscal year,” a change from the current policy that states “comp time shall be administered within the same guidelines as overtime. The municipality, within reason, may restrict the amount of comp time to be taken at one time during a time of year when the employee is needed at work. A payroll is done at the end of the year to pay out comp time that has accrued …the employees have an option to pay out or leave some of the comp time on the books to carry over into next year.” 

Voorhees then opened the floor by asking “what are the employee questions and issues you have?”

Phil LaBore, city electrical superintendent spoke up first, asking, “What exactly is the beef with the comp time? 

Mayor Voorhees answered his question with a question: “You have read the proposed policy so what are your questions?”

LaBore continued,“Are you trying to cut back on the comp time or you don’t want anyone to take comp time? Or do you want us to take regular pay for overtime? 

“I want to establish some oversight on the comp time,” responded Voorhees. 

“My feeling is that if we’re getting comp time, keep it until the end of the year if you want to, and if you haven’t gotten it used up by the end of the year, you lose it.” 

Water department employee Randy Willman asked, “What if we have a water main break at 2 in the morning, do we have to call the mayor before we go out?”

“That was not the interpretation of the council,” Voorhees replied. “I think at some point, the council should be included in the decision or whatever emergency exists in the city for the committee head to know what’s going on.”

The conversation then returned to compensatory time when Randy Willman asked, “What was the total dollar amount the city paid in comp time this year?”

“That’s not what we’re even talking about,” Voorhees responded.

Water superintendent Jim Vavra answered the question, “The total paid out for the year, with all employees, was $11,748.07.”

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