Hawarden City Council members

Hawarden City Council members discuss at the June 22 meeting excluding two sections of the city’s employee manual containing new policies regarding vacation time and city employee volunteer service. The rest of the employee manual was approved by a 4-1 council vote.

HAWARDEN—The city of Hawarden will continue to work on a pair of policies in its employee manual after some confusion at the June 22 Hawarden City Council meeting.

Up for vote was a resolution to adopt the city’s employee personnel policy, as to be outlined in the city’s employee handbook for the new fiscal year.

Two parts were singled out for further review by city council members.

The first is section 5.7, which states, “Employees who have the approval from their supervisor and the city administrator to be a member of either the Hawarden Fire Department or Hawarden Ambulance may not participate while on-call for the city.

“Responding to an emergency page is at the discretion of the supervisor and based on current workload. Supervisors are encouraged to communicate with staff at least weekly with regard to workload and their availability to respond to page.”

The second section, 8.1, changes how city employee vacation time is accumulated.

According to city administrator Wanda Woodley, the previous vacation time system utilized an algorithm to calculate employees’ vacation time.

“The methodology was difficult to understand,” she said. “The new policy is straight forward with employees earning vacation in their first year of employment. The new policy also lowered the required years of service so employees are able to earn an extra week of vacation sooner.”

Instead of using a matrix to determine vacation times, the new policy adjusts based on the individual’s length of employment.

Those who are between one month and seven years of completed service will get 10 vacation days, those who completed eight-14 years get 15 vacation days and those who have completed 15 or more years get 20 vacation days.

Woodley said the employee handbook, including these changes, were approved by the city employee union.

Issues with those portions of the manual were first brought forward during discussion at the June 8 city council meeting.

Council member Monte Harvey had indicated at the June 8 meeting he didn’t think the language of the policy left enough discretion on which situations volunteers who are city employees could respond.

“Nobody expects the fire department to leave town for a grass fire. But if there is a building on fire in town and it’s all hands, I expect everybody to show up,” Harvey had said. “I’m just saying there should be some discretion on both sides of this issue.”

Woodley had said during the June 8 discussion that this policy is meant to address those situations where an employee who is on-call for the city and is also a volunteer for the fire department or ambulance team, with concerns that there are times when the employee’s city duties might hamper his or her ability to respond to an emergency page.

Woodley had said, “After we talked with department heads and some of our foremen, we are recommending that if they are on call on the weekends, that they not answer a page because if they would, for example, be out on mutual aid 20-30 miles out of town, it’s hard for them to get back in that situation if they have something they need to take care of back here when they’re on an on call situation.

“If they’re not on call, and it’s on the weekends or at night, they’re more than welcome to answer that page; we would not dictate that.”

She had added, “What we’re trying to do is give some consistency so they don’t need to check with their supervisor whether they should answer that page or not.”

Council member Patty Anderson made a motion to approve the resolution, excluding sections 5.7 and 8.1. She made the motion with the goal to provide the city council more time to review them.

It was approved 4-1, with council member Travis Olson voting against.

However, after the vote, city attorney Jenny Winterfeld said that by excluding those sections, city employees had no policy in place by which they could still accumulate vacation time, as it excluded the policy changes without putting into place an alternative policy the city could continue to use in the meantime.

Council member Rob Klocke made a new motion to accept the new policy manual, excluding those two policies but leaving in place the old policies until the city council has had time to review it.

“A month or two would be sufficient to decide on the language to put in there. We don’t want to drag this out,” Klocke said.

This resolution was approved 5-0.

Anderson indicated she would work with Woodley to collaborate on reviewing the text of those two policies.