A Wauseon city employee whose position was reduced to part-time will retain full-time status by dividing duties between two departments.
City Council members on Monday approved a Personnel Committee recommendation allowing Clerk of Council Andrea Gerken to split time between her duties and as an assistant to Public Service Director Keith Torbet. Gerken will maintain 25 hours as clerk and add 15 hours in Torbet’s office.
The committee’s decision was made during a March 9 meeting that delved into updates and changes to city job descriptions. Committee member and Council President Shane Chamberlin pressed at that time to keep the clerk position full-time, suggesting Council needed to ensure Gerken was given sufficient duties.
“I commented if we were hiring a new person it would be different, but our current clerk was hired full-time, and to take that away and make her lose full-time benefits would be inappropriate,” he told Council members on Monday.
During the March 9 committee meeting Torbet shot down Chamberlin’s suggestion to change Gerken’s position to four eight-hour days in order to reduce city costs. At the meeting, Chamberlin said he was concerned that the Clerk of Council position appeared to be targeted by city administrators.
But he added that Sarah Wheeler, city human resources officer, said Gerken’s position was initially discussed because it became unclear during the COVID-19 pandemic which city administrator actually supervised her.
Following Council’s vote, Mayor Kathy Huner said, “As far as ‘targeting’ from the administration, I think that’s an awful strong word…I agree with the administration that nobody wanted to see Andrea lose her job from this administration.”
Huner agreed that the Clerk of Council position “is very foggy, and nobody knew, including our clerk, that she didn’t know who to answer (to), didn’t know where to go. COVID was not just harsh on the Clerk of Council, it was harsh on a lot of employees who all of a sudden had changes.”
She and Chamberlin apologized to Gerken for having to sit through discussions concerning the fate of her position as part of her clerking duties. Gerken has been the city’s Clerk of Council since October of 2017.
The City Council meeting began with a brief public hearing on a proposed zoning change from R-4 – multiple family – to B4 – mixed community use – for 604-606 S. Shoop Ave. The change would permit construction of a building addition at the site, which holds the Fulton County Health Department and the multi-use Detwiler building.
City resident Howard Warncke, who lives in a condominium complex near the site and attended the meeting, asked for a timetable on the project. Fulton County Health Commissioner Kim Cupp, who also attended the Council meeting, said that’s up to the economy. She told Warncke that, with general construction costs on the rise, “we really do not have a timetable established.”
Cupp said the city’s intention is to have engineer drawings completed and receive a firm cost estimate before proceeding further. She said information is still being gathered.
Huner told Warncke the city must also complete public hearings on the proposal. “As far as when they’re going to start digging, that’s up to the economy,” she said.
In other business, Tree Commission member Patrick Griggs said principals in the Wauseon school district were asked whether an Arbor Day tree-planting celebration at their schools on April 30 is feasible. Griggs said the commission would also like to plant replacement trees in Homecoming Park on that date.
In legislative matters, Council members approved: the first reading of an ordinance to establish districts and maps and amend the city zoning map; the second reading of a resolution approving a solid waste management plan update for the joint solid waste management district that includes Fulton County; third readings of ordinances to increase Wauseon water and sewer rates by 6%, effective April 1, and to increase the water restoration fee after disconnection to $50, and the non-business hour restoration fee to $100; and the third reading of a resolution authorizing the mayor to contract with Sudsina and Associates for advisement on debt offerings and other financial matters.
Council also approved the mayor’s appointment of Councilor Scott Stiriz to the INTV board.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.