City-owned facility in need of additional full-time employees

Photo by Chad Koenen
The Henning City Council recently approved making five positions at Willow Creek full-time in an effort to fill open positions and times at the facility. 

By Chad Koenen


The Henning City Council approved hiring up to five full-time employees at Willow Creek to meet growing demand at the facility. That plan could include transitioning some current part-time employees into a full-time role.

During its regularly scheduled meeting last Monday, the Henning City Council spent almost an hour discussing Willow Creek.

During her report on Willow Creek, Executive Director Lisa Augustus said there are currently 27 residents at Willow Creek, with 21 of those residents on services and six of them in independent care. Augustus also told the council that in order to admit more residents she would need additional staff members as many of the current residents continue to age in place and need additional services.

“As people continue to age in place they will continue to need additional services,” she said. 

While Augustus has tried hiring part-time employees in the past, she said she has not been able to fill the open positions due to a lack of applications and qualified candidates. 

“Staffing is a huge challenge,” said Augustus. 

For example, in September Augustus admitted three more people into Willow Creek and has two more admissions with residents who need services scheduled for October. 

In order to help cover some of the open shifts, Augustus requested transitioning some of the part-time employees into a full-time position. 

Four of the five full-time employees she could potentially hire are already part-time employees at Willow Creek, who of late, have been working full-time hours to cover available shifts. As part of the proposal, Augustus would have the option to hire those four part-time people and officially make them full-time employees, while also hiring a fifth full-time employee to cover necessary shifts.

“The five would be a great base and you would build your part-time people from your base,” said Augustus. “I think to be competitive we need to have (insurance).”

Henning City Council member Jim Haberer said Augustus needs additional help as more residents continue to move into Willow Creek. 

“She is creating a monster that needs more fuel. They need more services and we don’t have enough people and they don’t have enough hours,” said Haberer, who added that the money to pay for the employees would be available at Willow Creek should the city be able to fill the facility.

Augustus made a similar request in months past about needing additional employees at the facility. At the time, the city council opted not to hire additional full-time employees due to the city’s employee wage rate study. The council hired an outside firm to complete the study and was holding off on raises for full-time employees until the study was completed. 

Henning Mayor Wiese said it wasn’t fair to give raises to full-time employees at Willow Creek when it recently turned down raises to two other city employees, until a rate study is completed. He said the city had more leeway in giving raises to part-time employees and suggested giving part-time employees at Willow Creek up to a $6 an hour raise per hour, but keeping them part-time without insurance benefits. 

Augustus said she was fine with leaving the employees wages where they were, but wanted to add in the option of offering insurance and benefits. She contended it would be cheaper to offer benefits to the employees who are currently working full-time hours than to give a $6 an hour raise to part-time employees at Willow Creek.

In addition to the question about whether the city should even transition some of Willow Creek’s employees to an official full-time role, the city council questioned whether the city should offer family or single coverage insurance. Most city employees current have a family plan that is largely covered by the city, but Hart said he wanted to see the Willow Creek employees to be offered just a single insurance plan given the question surrounding the rate study. 

The city council said it will offer a single insurance plan to five full-time employees at Willow Creek provided it was legal to do so. Provided it wasn’t legal to only offer the employees a single plan the city will offer a family health insurance plan similar to other full-time city employees in Henning. 

According to figures presented at the city council meeting, the cost for offering five employees health insurance was $47,400, however it was not clear if that would be the final cost should the city be required to offer a family health insurance option.