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Brainerd City Council: Council selects consultant for pay study

The Brainerd City Council Tuesday night chose a consultant to perform a compensation system and pay equity study for the city and Brainerd Public Utilities.

The council chose a proposal from David Drown Associates at a cost of $18,500, with $7,500 covered by the National Joint Powers Alliance. The city is responsible for the remaining $11,000.

Four proposals were submitted for the study. An offer from Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. carried a cost of $21,500-$30,500 and a proposal from Flaherty & Hood carried a cost of $20,000.

Prior to the council meeting, the personnel and finance committee interviewed representatives from Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. and David Drown Associates about their proposals.

The Gallagher proposal was more comprehensive and detailed, council member Sue Hilgart said, but she wasn't sure it was worth the extra cost. The David Drown proposal was detailed enough and the company could provide an adequate study, she said.

Council member Gabe Johnson, who voted against the motion, said he thought the Gallagher proposal was superior to the David Drown proposal. It cost more, he said, but included a new compensation plan and a new way to evaluate compensation.

"This decision isn't just a $10,000 today decision," Johnson said. "It's going to affect the city for the next generation-plus."

Hilgart said she didn't feel the city's pay grades are out of line, it's the compensation system that's so narrow.

"That's what we need to evaluate, is the compensation method," Hilgart said, "rather than necessarily the evaluation of the positions."

There will be costs associated with implementing the study, City Administrator Jim Thoreen said, if it recommends adjusting or increasing compensation for certain employees. The motion was approved on a 6-1 vote, with Johnson voting against the motion.

In other business, the council:

Approved guidelines allowing members of the Brainerd Fire Department to wash their personal vehicles at the fire station. This benefit was in place until 2009, when it was taken away.

Council member Kelly Bevans said this has been an annual issue since he's been on the council, and it brought the past fire chief to tears. The department brought up issues related to the benefit, he said, which resulted in it stopping in 2009. Other city employees called him Tuesday, he said, asking if they would also be allowed to wash their vehicles at the fire station.

"I don't think it's a good idea to give some members arbitrary benefit and not all members of our employment staff," Bevans said. "Especially when it was those members themselves that brought up the request to discontinue the practice."

The department was restructured since the policy was last in place, Johnson said.

"Things are significantly different down the street than they were the last time this was a negative issue," Johnson said.

The proposed policy has clear guidelines, Hilgart said, and offers a benefit to employees who have no other benefits, like health, life or dental insurance.

"It's a unique situation," Hilgart said. "And it does stand to bring them to the fire station on a more frequent basis, which could decrease the amount of response time."

The washing of personal vehicles can't impede the response of emergency vehicles and can't take place during general alarms, department training or any other department function. Keys will be left inside the vehicle in case it needs to be moved and no mechanical work can be performed. Firefighters will contribute to a soap fund for washing personal and department vehicles.

The guidelines were approved on a 6-1 vote, with Bevans voting against the motion.

Hosted a public hearing for the Brainerd Police Department's new body cameras. Police Chief Corky McQuiston said legislation on body cameras requires a public comment period. While no one spoke at the public hearing, the department will accept comments electronically until Sept. 30. Comments can be emailed to with "police worn body cameras" as the subject line.

The body cameras have arrived and the docking stations are being set up, McQuiston said. The department will be trained on the body cameras Sept. 28, he said, with the hope the cameras will be ready to go by the start of October.

Authorized a deferred loan to NJMS Phelps Block LLC from the revolving loan fund in the amount of $39,500. Of the total, $19,750 will be a deferred loan and $19,750 will be a traditional low-interest loan.

The city Economic Development Authority last week unanimously recommended approving the loan. The amount of the loan represents the balance of the fund. The loan will be used to fund a portion of the costs of installing a new boiler and handicapped-accessible bathroom in the properties at 711 and 715 Laurel St. The low bid for the project from Hy-Tec Construction has a total cost of $71,984.

Adopted a resolution supporting the River to Rail initiative, which focuses on building up downtown Brainerd and the surrounding area by adding mixed-use development, trails and renovating existing buildings. Bruce Buxton presented the idea to the council during an Aug. 28 work session. Tuesday, Buxton thanked the council and said the community needs the council's support and leadership.

Had the first reading of proposed ordinance 1472, which amends section 900 of city code pertaining to public safety and animals. The ordinance change reflects the state statute outlining the minimum number of days Heartland Animal Rescue Team is required to keep animals. According to state statute 346.47, subdivision 2, animals seized by a public authority must be held for redemption by the owner for a least five regular business days. The current city code includes a minimum of seven days.

Accepted a recommendation to accept a proposal from Short Elliott Hendrickson for design and construction engineering services for phases II and III of the Garfield Elementary School safe routes to school project and the South Sixth Street sidewalk extension project. The projects are planned for 2019.

The proposal carries a cost of $229,981, which was the lowest cost of the three submitted proposals. The other proposals were from Bolton & Menk and WSB & Associates. The city covers 100 percent of the engineering costs, while 80 percent of the construction costs are covered by federal funding. The remaining 20 percent of the construction costs will come from the city's construction fund.

Authorized staff to submit an offer of $7,000 to purchase a sliver of property at the southwest corner of the intersection of Wright and Southeast 13th streets. An appraisal of the property came in at $7,000. The current property owner is DLP Investments LLC.

Wright Street will possibly be resurfaced in the next few years and acquiring the property will allow the street to be aligned. Currently, the east portion of Wright Street does not line up with the portion on the west side of Southeast 13 Street.

Spenser Bickett

Spenser Bickett covers the Brainerd City Council and education. A native of the Twin Cities, Bickett attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he majored in journalism with a minor in political science. After graduation, he worked for the International Falls Journal as a staff writer before coming to Brainerd.

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