City takes steps toward finding new city manager

Published 10:17 pm Monday, May 13, 2019

Emergency funding needed for city pool bath house structure


Action at the Albert Lea City Council meeting Monday means the soon-vacant city manager job will be posted and begin accepting applications Tuesday.

Gary Weiers, service team lead for executive search company DDA Human Resources Inc., said after four weeks, he will narrow the pool to approximately a dozen candidates, who will be assigned a video interview and personality index. City Council members will pick finalists for the position. These finalists will come to Albert Lea for an interview process — commonly a two-day affair — in mid-July, Weiers said.

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Part of that process could include an informal meet-and-greet with the community.

“I think our community would like that,” Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. told Weiers during the study session preceding the City Council meeting.

The council also made changes to a section on the new city manager’s desired goals and priorities, with Ward 3 Councilor Jason Howland asking for an emphasis on representing the community at the state legislature.

“I just think it’s important to have a good knowledge of, you know, getting bonding dollars for, you know, large projects and that sort of thing,” he said.

In addition, the council approved a lower education requirement than initially considered. The position asks for applicants with a master’s degree to have three years of experience, while those with a bachelor’s degree are asked to apply with five. This is a two-year decrease for both.

“I believe in keeping the door more open at the onset,” Weiers said.

Finally, the council set the position’s salary range at $115,000 to $145,000. This would not be in line with the city’s salary scale, though current City Manager Chad Adams’ salary is also outside of the scale system used to determine salaries for city employees. Weiers said this is not unusual for the city manager position.

Rasmussen suggested the approved range, citing a recent city manager hire in Faribault for a salary of $150,000. He said if the city sets their salary range drastically lower than what other communities are paying, the clientele will reflect that. The position in Albert Lea requires someone with more skills and experience, Rasmussen said.

“I would hate to not have that person apply just because the range is too low,” Rasmussen said.

In the time between Adams’ departure and the hiring of a new city manager, Adams said the intention is for Assistant City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos to step in as temporary city manager. The City Council did not make a motion Monday, but could do so May 28.

Also at Monday’s meeting, all City Council members approved emergency funding for the city pool bath house, which Adams said has structural damage to some beams. This does not include engineer designs, electrical work and plumbing, Adams said, which he expects will put the project between $41,000 and $50,000.

The temporary fix approved would demolish the north wall and put in a temporary wall for the summer season. Even with approval to move forward, Adams said the work will cause a delay in the pool’s opening.

However, Adams said the city is considering other options for the community, like staffing lifeguards on the beach and creating structured events at that location or keeping the pool open later in August with limited hours.

Ward 1 Councilor Rich Murray asked whether it would make more sense to stay at the beach all summer, saving the money used to operate the pool for the bath house’s more permanent repair. According to Adams, between $40,000 and $50,000 to be put toward the pool was what the city felt comfortable with in order to keep the pool open.

“It’s a very highly valued amenity in the community,” Adams said.

Howland said it was unacceptable for these issues not to be caught earlier.

“It just burns me that this has happened,” Howland said. “This obviously did not happen overnight.”

However, the facilities master plan completed close to five years ago showed cautionary concerns, which advanced more quickly than expected, Adams said.

“We have, as staff, looked at all our facilities quite diligently,” Adams said. “… We will find out the exact cause.”

The temporary fix does not look like it will be part of a permanent solution for the bath house, Adams said.

“There’s going to be a much larger cost coming forward here in the next month or so,” he said.

In other action:

• The city council acknowledged — but did not accept — a $339,120 bid from Alcon Excavating Inc. for water and sewer service installation for homeowners in the Stables Area. The bid came in over $100,000 higher than the engineer’s estimate. Adams said they are working with contractors to try lowering the cost.

“We’re hoping to get a better bid result on this,” he said.

Rasmussen said the bid results do not affect the timeline of the project, as the bid was for water and sewer hookups for homeowners in an effort to provide them with a negotiated price.

• The council held a first reading of an ordinance expanding operating sites for food truck vendors.

• City Finance Director Kristi Brutlag presented a 2019 quarterly budget report.

• The City Council entered into a closed session to discuss acquisition of a 7.9 acre parcel of land through the middle of the Blazing Star Landing. The property is an old right-of-way for the railroad now available for purchase, Adams said.

• Members of the Albert Lea Police Department Citizens Academy were recognized and three firefighters were given the oath of office.


About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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