In a project that has taken more than two years, Hastings city staff members have crafted comprehensive personnel rules that reflect changes following the passage of the ordinance that merged the operations of city government and Hastings Utilities.

City Administrator Dave Ptak and Lori Hartman, director of human resources for the city, presented during the Hastings City Council work session on Monday to revise the personnel chapter of the city code to become the Civil Service Act, applying only to police and fire. The employee handbook will apply to all other employees, as well as police and fire, except where the collective bargaining agreements for those two departments would differ.Council members will act on the proposed changes during their Oct. 14 meeting.

Councilwoman Ginny Skutnik, who is council vice president and presided at the work session in the absence of Council President Paul Hamelink, commended staff for their work.

The proposed policy changes come after the council passed Ordinance No. 4473 following a third reading on April 24, 2017. Ordinance No. 4473 amends city code dealing with department heads, duties and responsibilities of the city administrator and outlines the duties of the utility manager.

“You’ve been working on this for a long time,” Skutnik said. “To me, it does not leave a question of who, what, where, when, how or why. It was very thorough.”

Department heads including Ptak, Hartman, Utilities Manager Kevin Johnson, former City Administrator Joe Patterson and previous finance directors worked on the new policies over time. City Attorney Clint Schukei, who was appointed in May, also helped finalize the drafting.

Those officials collaborated on the policy with an employee committee composed of six non-supervisory representatives from Hastings Utilities and six from the city.

The groups each met several times during the last two-plus years.

Ptak said the policy amendments address personnel inconsistencies between city departments such as holidays and other benefits, providing the best of both options between Hastings Utilities and the rest of the city.

“It was somewhat of a challenge, if you will, to meld these two together,” he said.

The policy changes will come before the council as a resolution, as opposed to an ordinance, making it easy to make amendments in the future.

Ptak said there is no such thing as a perfect handbook.

“It’s been vetted many, many times, but I’m not going to tell you it’s perfect,” he said. “That’s why we put it on paper, because we’re committed to tweak it as need be as necessary and as we find things in here that we didn’t think about as much as we tried to initially.”

Hartman said members of the employee committee want to stay engaged in the process, keeping the policies current and making changes as necessary.

Skutnik said a comprehensive personnel rules overhaul has been talked about since 1999, when she started working as the city’s administrative secretary.

Ptak and Hartman plan to meet with each department to discuss the changes and will review the changes again in 90 days.

“This has been a great process,” Ptak said. “I would certainly recommend it as far as anytime you have such a project like that as to involve our employees because they are our most important resource.”

Like Skutnik, Mayor Corey Stutte commended staff members for their work on the changes.

“It’s been two years and five months now since we enacted this,” he said, referring to Ordinance No 4473. “The hard work that you all put into this is very evident. It’s nice to see how far we’ve come.

“It’s very easy for us to sit back and say ‘we should be farther with the ERP or we could be farther with this or that.’ We knew this was going to take time. It’s vey nice to see this handbook. It’s time to move forward. You’ve done so much work over the past couple years, whether it was bringing holiday schedules together or bringing health care plans together. None of that is easy, and you’ve done a great job of educating the staff on it. You’ve done a great job of putting this in writing.”

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