Council to start examining city administrator position, boundary agreement with Pine River

In what is scheduled to be a day-long meeting, the Merrill Common Council, meeting as the Committee of the Whole, will start the process Friday of determining the future of the position of City Administrator. The committee will also be getting their first look at a preliminary boundary agreement between the city and the Town of Pine River as part of an update on the progress of the economic development plans between the two governments along the Highway 51 corridor.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. Friday in the basement conference room of City Hall. A lunch break is tentatively planned for 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and then the meeting will continue until about 3 p.m.

The portion of the agenda dealing with the boundary agreement and other matters with the 51 corridordevelopment efforts will be before lunch.

Mayor Bill Bialecki said the agreement is a preliminary draft the two sides have worked out after several months of work.

“We’re going to present it to the council to look at, to get their input on it,” Bialecki said.

He said that this is the second step in a long process and no formal action will be taken on the agreement. He said the process has to follow the procedures set out in state statutes and eventually a public hearing will be held on it before it is voted on. Since both governing bodies would have to vote on the final agreement, Bialecki said that a joint public hearing would probably be held.

“That way if people from the city have any questions for Pine River officials or vice versa, they can be addressed at one time,” he said.

After lunch, the committee will turn its attention to matters of the 2012 budget, of which the city administrator position is just a part of the puzzle, Bialecki said. After going into closed session to discuss job classifications and compensation of other members of the city’s administrative team, they will reconvene in open session.

The committee will then discuss the historical and present organization chart for the City Administration Department, to include all managers reporting directly to that position. Then they will review the steps the Common Council took in 2005-6 to hire Tony Chladek as the first City Administrator.

“This is very preliminary since we have new council members since the last one was drawn up,” Bialecki said. “We just want to start the process.”

Bialecki said the council will have the ultimate decision on keeping the present city administrator position or doing away with it and returning to the more traditional form of government where the mayor performs many of the duties. Right now, the administrator functions are being handled by the city attorney and finance/technology director.

“It was the council’s decision to accept the resignation of the previous one and it will be their decision if we hire another one or not,” Bialecki said.

He added that he felt that the city is being managed very well right now under the interim plan. The option of recommending lifting the city’s hiring freeze to fill the vacant administrator position is on the agenda, although they may table that action.

“We are in no rush to fill the position,” Bialecki said.

He said one big consideration the council will be looking at is the roughly $125,000 salary and benefit package budgeted for the position.

“Given the state of the state budget right now and the levy limits placed on us, they may decide to do away with the position entirely,” he said.

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