City outlines changes, including some furloughs, layoffs

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Albert Lea City Manager on Monday outlined changes in the city’s staffing plans for the coming weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

David Todd said staff has been working on a plan to keep staff safe and healthy but also to show responsibility in stewardship of taxpayer funds. He noted staffing accounts for 72% of the city’s total budget and expenditures.

Of the city’s 139 full-time employees, he said 84 have been deemed essential, according to the governor’s current orders. Forty-eight of those employees are teleworking.

He said the city is implementing staff reductions in phases.

The first phase, which started March 17, included layoffs of some part-time employees who were not able to work due to Gov. Tim Walz’s order or who could not complete their jobs because of facility closures.

The second phase, which is expected to run May 4 through May 31, will primarily affect the senior center and the library. He said the city will furlough five full-time library employees, who will be eligible to use floating holidays, vacation and sick time to cover their time while furloughed and remain eligible for insurance benefits.

Recreation Manager Bob Furland said Tuesday three part-time employees have been furloughed with the senior center.

There is also a hiring freeze on all seasonal, temporary and permanent part-time employees, and hiring of essential personnel will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Some employees will likely be cross-trained to fulfill other duties, such as with the parks department.

City Hall remains closed; however, finance department staff will be answering the phones and routing calls from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., he said. He said the library, city arena and senior center remain closed and noted that the senior center will likely remain closed for an indefinite amount of time because its clientele are the most susceptible to the virus.

Staff are evaluating the closure of the swimming pool for the season, the ice has been removed from the arena and he said most of the programming through the Parks and Recreation Department has been canceled.

Todd said a tracking system has been developed to track employees’ time used from homes, and employees who do not reach 80 hours can use floating holidays, vacation and sick time to make up for lower hours.

He said the city is also scrutinizing “each and every purchase,” reducing and eliminating overtime where feasible and eliminating travel not deemed necessary.

In areas where the governor is allowing people to return to work, a back-to-work plan with safety guidelines will have to be implemented. Some of the safety precautions being considered include screens between members of the public and staff with the finance department, the circulation desk in the library and the window for licenses and permits. Masks will also be given out to staff, as well as hand sanitizer and gloves.

The plan also includes monitoring in buildings of people entering such as at the Freeborn County courthouse with health questions and temperature monitoring.