Harmony City Council hires interim city administrator

Melissa Vander Plas

The Harmony City Council spent a great deal of its meeting last Tuesday night, Jan. 14, preparing for the departure of current city administrator Jerome Illg in February. Following Illg’s resignation, the council will be contracting with an interim administrator until the position can be filled permanently.

In the interim, former Harmony administrator Joel Dhein will return to the community and work three days a week, starting Feb. 5. This will allow a six-day overlap to work with Illg and learn more about what projects are underway in Harmony. Dhein offered to start his position earlier if Illg or the council felt it necessary, but all agreed the six days would be adequate.

City Attorney Greg Schieber, who has been helping with the contract negotiations for the interim position, noted Dhein will work three, 10-hour days each week, Feb. 5 through May 1. He will be compensated at a rate of $45 an hour, plus given a stipend of $50 a week to cover the use of his personal vehicle, cell phone and computer.

The council approved the contract and terms for the interim administrator before going on to discuss the hiring process for a permanent administrator. At the council’s December meeting, members discussed forming a hiring committee made up of two council members, city employees and community members to come up with a job description, create a job advertisement and to review resumes when they started coming in. The council decided against this at last week’s meeting, determining that the City Council members could serve in this capacity, with a member of the personnel committee and the mayor conducting the interviews.

In a related matter, the council also discussed hiring additional part-time office help for the interim as well. Mayor Steve Donney noted since Dhein is here only three days a week, additional office coverage may be needed as Deputy City Clerk Eileen Schansberg is also the ambulance director and is often called out of the office to respond to a call.

Schansberg also noted it may be a good time to hire someone who could potentially take over as ambulance director in the future as she is nearing an age when she is considering retirement or cutting back on responsibilities.

Special meeting

The council set a special council meeting for Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. to authorize the bidding process for the upcoming street and utility project. Because that would be a quick item of business, Councilmember Deb Swenson suggested combining the meeting with a discussion on creating the job description for the city administrator.

“It’s a good time to review that,” said Scheiber. “You can get a fresh start and make sure you include everything you’d like to see this new person doing.”

He also added that he has a good template for a city administrator position that the council can use as a starting point.

Other business

The council approved a contract with WHKS for oversight of the wastewater treatment plant for the month of January. Former wastewater treatment plant operator Chris Johnson retired in December and can return to provide oversight after 30 days away from the position. City Maintenance employee Cory Whalen said he and the other maintenance employees are learning a lot from the WHKS employee about running the plant.

Whalen also noted that the snow emergency notices are going well – when the city staff remembers to call them. The residents are doing well to remove cars from the streets and the few who do not have been ticketed. In the two snow emergencies called recently, Whalen said it was only one car the first time and the next time it was about seven cars that were still parked on the streets.

Based on a recommendation from the EDA board, the City Council approved renewal of the housing incentive program for 2020. Within the incentive, builders can qualify for certain rebates and gifts based on the value of the home.

City appointments were approved with only one change from 2019. Kelli Jo Dornink was appointed to fill the seat being vacated by MaryAnn Johnson. Her term will run two years.

The council also approved the 2020 COLA adjustment for employee wages at 2.5%, which was included in the budget.