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Comp time now capped at 80 hours for city employees

By Anna Jauhola
Hallock city employees will no longer accrue comp time beyond 80 hours.
On Monday, Jan. 9, the Hallock City Council voted to cap employee compensatory time at 80 hours. Currently, one employe has more than 200 hours, another has more than 300 and a third has over 400 hours of comp time built up.
Compensatory time is time an employee has worked beyond their regular hours, but has not yet been paid for. When they choose to take comp time, they are then paid time and a half.
City Clerk/Administrator Aimee Sugden recommended the council implement a cap on comp time, and payout any leftover comp time at the end of December 2023 at the employees’ rate of pay effective Feb. 1, 2023.
“We owe all of this to the employees. Comp time has accrued quickly with not having a full staff,” Sugden said. “Kendra has a bunch lingering from when there wasn’t an administrator. My recommendation to the council would be to update the handbook so it’s capped at 80 hours. Once they have that 80 hours, they can’t accrue anymore.”
Councilor Naomi Larson said the unfortunate part of doing a buyout is employees accrued much of this time in different years, but will be paid at their current rate.
“I just feel like we should be paying them overtime instead,” she said.
Councilor Kevin Waller agreed, noting the employees have accrued a lot of time off, not only comp time, but vacation time and sick time as well. There is no cap on sick time or vacation.
Sugden said she suggested a buyout at the end of 2023 in hopes employees would use some of their comp time before then and lower the amount paid out.
“I have encouraged all employees to try and start spending down their accounts. I know there’s difficulties in doing that with less manpower,” Sugden added.
Utilities Superintendent Dan Larson said he agreed with the cap and wasn’t fighting the change.
Councilor Larson moved to cap comp time at 80 hours and to have a buyout of the balance of comp time in December at the employees’ rate of pay as of Feb. 1, 2023.

In other business, the council:
• After much discussion, tabled the unpayable utility bills list. Sugden presented a list of unpaid utility bills dating back to 2011 and said state statute prevents the city from collecting on any unpaid bills older than seven years. She also presented a list of collectible accounts, many of which include names that are on the previous list. The council asked why these have not been collected when so many of the people listed still live in town. Sugden said she can’t answer for anything not collected on prior to 2019, when she started with the city. She said the procedure now is if someone’s utility bill is not paid, the city will discontinue service and will not connect a property until that property’s utility bill is paid. Sugden will confer with City Attorney Jeff Hane on the issue and bring it back to the council.
• Approved a resolution of sponsorship to apply for a Small Cities Grant through Northwest Community Action and a citizen participation plan. If Hallock receives the grant, it will allow for rehabilitation of 15 homes citywide. The entire project is $444,000.
• Approved Jen Peterson as acting mayor for 2023.
• Approved the fee schedule, except fees for pickleball and walking in the city hall. Councilor Larson felt it is a service to the community and shouldn’t be a charge. The council will revisit those fee requests.
• Approved a step increase for Assistant Clerk Kendra Kroening, which increases her pay to $24.67 per hour. This cost includes the cost of living adjustment approved in late December.
• Approved a new five-year grant contract for the fire department with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The DNR will pay the fire department $5,000 per year to assist with fire suppression.
• Approved a gambling premises permit to move the fire department’s pull tabs from the Two River Golf Club to the Hallock Curling Club.
• Approved a change order from MnDOT for $1,580 to replace 28 halogen lights with LED lights on the city’s light poles along Highways 75 and 175.
• Approved selling a 7.13 acre lot to Otter Tail Power just south of the Kittson County Fairgrounds, pending city attorney review.
• Approved a request to apply for a road closure of Second Street in September for a wedding. The city has to apply for the closure through the Kittson County Highway Department as Second Street is also CSAH 1.
• Heard from Utilities Superintendent Larson that several of the city’s Christmas lights on light poles were out because the old lights are not compatible with the new poles’ wiring.
The next council meeting is set for Monday, Feb. 6 at 5:30 p.m.

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