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Akeley mayor, council member bid adieu; table increases

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Akeley residents witnessed a contentious council meeting Wednesday night as mayor Jennifer Mitchell and Terry Chalich bid farewell to their roles.

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A consent agenda proposal to increase clerk-treasurer Sebrina Hegg's hours from 24 to 36 per week drew criticism from council member Trygve Karl. Hegg was not present at the meeting.

He cited changes needed in the original levy due to an oversight on her part and time spent away from the office.

"She was hired over someone more well qualified," Karl said. "This is $9,984 a year," he said of the added salary expense, which he said was not in the budget. "I think this should be tabled until the new council reviews this."

But Mitchell pointed out the other candidate had declined the position. "When the position opened, it left the city incredibly vulnerable," she said. "Sebrina was willing to step in. She showed a willingness to do the job effectively."

A motion by Karl to table the issue until January died for lack of a second.

Brian Hitchcock, in making a motion to increase the hours, stated, the hours are needed. The amount, he said, was budgeted.

In September, the council approved Hegg's salary at $16 per hour, with a 24-hour per week schedule. Robbi Gack was approved as deputy clerk at $13 per hour, based on a 22-hour week.

Hegg was hired following resignations by clerk-treasurer Denise Rittgers and part-time clerk assistant Susan Walter in late July.

The council, meeting in closed session with the two, proposed "realigning" weekly work hours. Rittgers's was to be trimmed from 36 to 24 and Walter's to be increased from 10 to 22.

They subsequently resigned. In other action, the council:

n Tabled wage increases for police chief Jimmy Hansen, maintenance supervisor Frank Thelin and maintenance worker Herbert Young after it was brought to the council's attention raises, per the personnel policy, are to be determined in June of each year.

The proposal calls for a raise from $15.45 to $15.75 per hour for Hansen, $15 to $15.25 for Thelin and $10 to $10.25 for Young.

The personnel policy calls for a percentage raise, ostensibly uniform, as opposed to dollar amounts.

Mitchell urged the new council to address the matter in January, noting the raises were included in the budget. "Another discussion is warranted. For the record, I'm opposed to waiting," she said.

n Heard no discussion or updates on decisions as to proceeding with repair of the Paul Bunyan statue. Gack said after the meeting the city is waiting on a decision from the League of Minnesota Cities.

n Heard questions from residents regarding an "audit" following the resignations of clerk-treasurer Denise Rittgers and deputy clerk Susan Larson Clark.

In September, the council approved spending up to $12,000 for a review of the city's finances at the recommendation of the state.

Mitchell would not comment on the issue, indicating it would be addressed in the annual audit.

n Approved initiating a capital improvement fund for the liquor store which is in dire need of a new roof. An amount of $20,000 will be allocated for the fund.

A report shows a net income of $23,687 through November. Total operating revenues are $352,777; operating expenses are $329,091.

n Approved a final levy for 2013 of $223,393, with modifications to the original.

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