By Mari Radtke
The Paullina City Council met in special session on May 23 for the purpose of selecting as Assistant Clerk. An additional item on the agenda was a discussion of zoning variances for construction projects.
Carol Honkomp reported to the council the activity of the Employee committee to select a candidate for the position of Assistant Clerk. She stated that 6 applicants were interviewed. “We got it down to between 2 and 3,” she said. Adding, “We only did a second interview on 2.” Those 2 resumes/applications were provided to each council person. She described the group of applicants as having little or no experience in an accounting or office setting. The 2 finalists brought to council both had medical experience but no accounting.
Lexy Murphy asked Honkomp about a candidate Murphy had questioned Honkomp about. Honkomp replied, “That’s the one I gave you that other deal, but that wouldn’t be any process – er – any problem right now. And if you want to talk about that one I think we should call it number 3 so we all know what we are doing without giving out any names.”
Councilman Steve Heeren stated how he reviewed the applications noting that the 2 applicants selected as finalists had education in medical fields and a third applicant that has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and that’s not one of the two choices. Councilman Jay Jones interjected, “That’s just a degree, straight out of college, okay?” Asking, “What experience do you have coming straight out of college that you have a BA in business?” Jones then took to the tactic of challenging Heeren by asking, “Did you interview her and ask her that?” Jones followed that up with, “Yea, that’s why we went with the other two,” after Heeren confirmed he did not.
Jones stated, “We felt she was a great candidate. But there’s also a nepotism thing here that says, ‘…unrelated persons living together,’” apparently referencing a city policy.
The discussion, mostly between Heeren, Jones and Honkomp steered toward who was related and who was living together. In the end the candidate does not live with a current city employee. Honkomp read further into the policy acknowledging the council could waive the nepotism policy.
There was a lively discussion about qualifications, if a highly qualified candidate would use the job as a stepping stone and other issues.” The conversation shifted to compensation.
Heeren outlined the requested salary of each of the 3 candidates. Candidate 1 requested higher that was set, candidate 2 did not include a requested salary and candidate 3 put an annual salary. It took awhile, but council finally figured out that the annual salary was less than the wage agreed to be offered.
Jones shifted the discussion to considering that down the road the city would copy the Primghar model of having a part time employee available for ambulance calls, thus the benefit of hiring a person from the medical field. Jones and Heeren clashed over which qualifications for this position to prioritize, with Jones seeming to want credit for opposing the hiring of the last clerk/administrator without accounting, office and computer experience or education in these fields, while Heeren was pushing for exactly the mentioned skills this time.
Mayor Brenda Ebel Kruse guided the council away from the discussion to easily reach a consensus on compensation, which was set at $18.50 per hour plus benefits. She led the discussion back to candidate selection.
Ebel Kruse detoured the selection discussion to get council input about the position being vacated by Rich Van Beek. That led to discussion of procedure to post the notice of for employment immediately when an employee gives notice. Also still vacant in City employment was a housekeeping job at City Hall and a police officer.
Michelle Wilson will be changed to salary on July 1. Lexy Murphy motioned to offer candidate 3 the job at $18.50 at 40 hours per week plus benefits. Heeren seconded. That comes to $38,480.00 per year. Candidate 3 had requested $30,000 per year. The vote was 4-1 with Jones dissenting.
Mike Hohbach attended as a member of the Paullina Board of Adjustments. A long discussion about the language of the city’s zoning code focused on building onto non-conforming structures outside the conforming area. The setbacks are based on legal lot lines. Few homeowners know where their legal lot lines are. Specifically discussed was a garage expansion that Mike Hohbach was the contractor for the job. Utility superintendent Kelly Top had denied the permit because the construction would build more into non-conforming area. Structure would be built into setback areas. This project would put structure inside the 25 foot setback space in the front yard. Hohbach advocated for removing the prohibition against constructing into the non-conforming area as the rule reads now. Honkomp stated, “Sometimes I feel that maybe we should adjust it a little bit but we have to be careful because you can’t change every rule.” Part of the consideration was limitations to buyers in the future.
Jones spoke up about the value of a requirement proposed by former City Clerk Sandy Fritz which was that the legal lot lines should be known certainly before any building permit is granted. It was never passed by council. Few property lines in Paullina are known for certain.
A second building permit application was brought up. A front yard deck onto a house front already 6 feet into the setback requested an additional 6 feet. Eventually, the Brasser building permit to construct the garage 8 feet into the non-conforming area was approved. Murphy motioned that the council offered an additional 12 feet variance instead of 14 feet further into the non-conforming area to Mason Waterman. Jean Unrau seconded. Further discussion between Jones and Murphy about if the council could or should offer an alternative or go to the Board of Adjustments, whose decision is supposed to be final. The council approved the deck construction to be 12 feet from the house 4-1 with Jones opposing. The full unedited video of the special meeting can be viewed on O’Brien County’s Bell-Times-Courier Youtube Channel.
By Mari Radtke