The December Paonia Town Council meeting began with approval of the revision of the town's personnel manual. The council had reviewed the ninth revision of the manual for a final discussion and vote.
Mayor Neal Schwieterman said the attorney's comments were incorporated in October. The town attorney made repeated requests over an eight- to 10-week period to CIRSA, the town's insurer, but received no comments. Trustee Ross King suggested the town move forward and deal with any possible changes from CIRSA in the future, should they arise.
Trustee Larry Wissbeck offered, "We keep pecking away at this, and I'm not sure that a dozen more [versions] are going to perfect it. My understanding is, it is amendable. I think we should adopt it and live with it."
Trustee Corinne Ferguson was the lead on the project. "It's been a long haul and perused many times by two councils ... and staff has had opportunity to review as well. So, every person that a manual like this would impact has had the opportunity to really look through it and make sure that it suited their needs."
Dave Knutson, who formerly headed up human resources for Chaco, helped guide those involved through the development of the new manual. "What we were trying to do was take something that was very legalistic and put it into a language that would be easily understood," Knutson said. The purpose of the manual was to enlighten employees about what the terms of their employment are and give supervisors and managers something that is also easily understandable to them in applying the policies.
A point of discussion was brought up by trustee Brian Ayers concerning disbursement of vacation and sick time. "I thought it would be in the employee's interest if they could accrue more sick time quicker instead of having to pay back vacation time ... to have that go into their sick leave balance," Ayers said. "People should use their vacation time to be refreshed [and then be able] to provide better service."
Attorney Jim Briscoe said he did not see any legal issues with the suggestion. "It gives the employee the option to use their vacation time for vacation time or allowing it to become part of their sick leave credit. They aren't losing anything that way."
King said he was comfortable with using vacation time, and to encourage employees to take their vacation time or lose 50 percent of the value to the time they had remaining.
Ferguson said the options were to leave the rule as is, use it or lose it or roll it over.
"The reason we have the existing policy of being paid at 50 percent was that there are times with a small staff ... it is hard to allow personnel to take vacations because of the stress it causes to the rest of the system," Mayor Neal Schwieterman said. In the past, some were paid 100 percent for their paid vacation time if they didn't use it.
Town clerk Barbara Peterson commented, "There are times when schedules do not allow for the taking of the time off ... if it's rolled over, not only is that gone — if you are 'maxed out' on your sick time — then you are paid at only a quarter of the time. Yes, I understand the whole concept is to use it our lose it, but if the work load is to such a point that you aren't able to take it, then you get a quarter of it which I think stinks when you're an employee. I like the policy the way it is now. It encourages the use of [vacation time] ... I don't think the employee should be penalized."
Ferguson added that the current department heads "strongly advise" their employees to take vacation time.
The consensus of the council was to leave the policy as is. It provides a two-week vacation for one to 10 years of service. Only 96 unused hours of vacation time can be carried over to the next year. What is not used is paid back at 50 percent of the employee's pay.
The council and department heads rejected the proposed Employee Assistance Program, which would give employees the opportunity to receive professional counseling. Mayor Schwieterman said with only 15 employees, statistically it would only help one employee a year. King said he did not feel a program like that was needed, and that substance abuse can be covered by the current medical plan.
The council also rejected the establishment of a personnel liaison group appointed by the mayor if an employee wishes to appeal a performance review. The employee can appeal to the personnel committee and then the board of trustees would make the final decision. The personnel liaison group would be a fourth level. Trustee Eric Goold felt there were too many layers. Knutson said the liaison group would provide a neutral viewpoint should an issue arise.
Ferguson moved to approve the manual as amended. Ayers seconded. Joining Ferguson and Ayers in voting for approval were Amber Kleinman and Larry Wissbeck. Goold and King were opposed. The amended personnel manual was approved by the 4-2 vote.blog comments powered by Disqus