Hill City replaces finance officer

By Gray Hughes

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated since the print edition ran with further comment from Kathy Skorzewski, Hill City Mayor.

There was a packed house on hand Monday, Aug. 12 for the meeting of the Hill City Common Council.

One of the first issues handled at the meeting was the annual appointment of officers in Hill City.

The matter was to be voted on at the first meeting in July. However, the appointments were pushed back initially to the first meeting in October so the new aldermen — Steve Jarvis and Bill Miner — could become acquainted with the appointments.

However, at its last meeting in July, the vote for appointments was moved forward to the first meeting in August.

All of the appointments for 2019-20 were the same except for finance officer, a position that was held by Carla Sheldon. Instead of Sheldon, Hill City Mayor Kathy Skorzewski nominated Stacia Tallon, who served as administration coordinator for the town prior to being named finance officer.

“A few weeks ago I laid out a plan where I intended to make changes,” Skorzewski said, discussing the change in finance officer. “I see we have an opportunity to make changes.”

She later said she wanted to ensure the positions were filled by the candidates who best fit the needs of Hill City.

In a conversation after the meeting, Skorzewski said she is looking at the city staff and employees to ensure a strong team is built.

“One of the most important parts of a strong team is having the right people in the right place,” she said. “Jobs will be specific to Hill City and the jobs Hill City needs done. Sometimes, that requires changes.”

The purpose of the changes, Skorzewski reiterated, is to ensure Hill City has the right people in the right position and to make sure they have the right pieces moving forward to make a strong team.

Tallon will serve temporarily before being possibly appointed at a later date. No official vote was taken on Tallon.

Prior to the discussion regarding finance officer, there were the votes for city administrator (Brett McMacken), city attorney (Frank Bettmann) and city engineer (Kale McNaboe).

Just like their votes for confirmation for both McMacken and Bettmann in July of 2018 (which ultimately sparked a call for a declaratory judgment from aldermen Jim Peterson and John Johnson over the legality of the mayor breaking a tie vote for appointments), the votes for city administrator and city attorney ended in a 2-2 tie, with Jarvis and Miner voting for both confirmations and Johnson and Peterson voting against both confirmations.

Since the vote ended in a tie, and Skorzewski said the precedent for the city had been for the mayor to break the tie vote on appointments, she broke the tie and voted in favor of both confirmations.

Both McMacken and Bettmann were sworn in at the meeting to continue their roles.

The vote for city engineer was 4-0.

No discussion was held on the appointments other than the remarks regarding Tallon’s appointment for finance officer.

In other news, the council discussed several purchases for the city public works department.

The first was a purchase of a 2011 Dodge 1500 4×4 pickup that was listed as government surplus. The cost to the city would be $17,550 and would serve as public works director Dan Pladson’s main truck.

The motion was made by Peterson and seconded by Jarvis to purchase the truck. The motion passed 4-0.

The second matter was the purchase of an 84 inch angle broom, 86 inch light material bucket and 80 inch heavy duty bucket for the city’s Bobcat. The cost to the city would be $7,200. Motion was made by Peterson and seconded by Miner to accept. The motion passed 4-0.

The council then discussed the purchase of a 2020 White Ford F550 4×4 cab chassis only that would cost $49,404. The vehicle would be used for snow removal.

“We wouldn’t need to go out to bid,” McMacken said. “We are piggybacking off an already existing government bid.”

Pladson explained two of the four vehicles used for snow removal — a truck from 2003 and a truck from 2004 — were in poor shape and a replacement was needed.

The city had purchased a 2018 Dodge truck used for plowing in December and had purchased a 2014 Dodge truck a few years ago, so Pladson said this purchase would ensure Hill City would not have to worry about the trucks for several years.

However, Jarvis and Peterson wanted to look into how much it would cost to repair the 2003 and 2004 trucks, so the matter was tabled.

The purchase of a dump body, sand spreader and snowplow for the truck was also tabled.

Finally, the council discussed installing a mixer and a heater in the water tanks to ensure ice does not form, which has already damaged one of the tanks.

The equipment for both the one high-side tank and the two low-side tanks were just over $40,000. Since the purchase of both together would be over the $50,000 threshold for going out to bid, the council considered going with two different companies to ensure the city did not have to go out to bid and could get the project done before winter.

That matter was tabled, as well, to look into the logistics of purchasing and installing the mixers.

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