Council approves hiring four full-time employees due to increased cost

Photo by Chad Koenen
The Henning City Council has rescinded a previous motion and will now transition to using four full-time employees which will replace using primarily part-time staff. 

By Chad Koenen

Publisher

The Henning City Council has reversed course a bit in regards to the number of full-time employees at the city-owned Willow Creek Assisted Living facility.

During a special city council meeting on Tuesday night, the Henning City Council rescinded a previous motion to hire up to five full-time employees to largely replace the use of part-time employees. While several part-time employees at Willow Creek were working near full-time hours to pick up additional shifts they were not being offered insurance, something Willow Creek Executive Director Lisa Augustus said she wanted to see changed. 

During the Willow Creek Commission report on Oct. 3, the cost associated with insuring the additional five people was estimated to be approximately $47,000. 

On Tuesday, Willow Creek Commission member Hope Sapp said the cost was estimated using the 2021 insurance premiums for the city. 

However, Henning Mayor Darren Wiese said the city’s insurance has went up dramatically from approximately $1,042 per month to approximately $1,800 per month for each employee opting into the family health insurance plan. That means the cost for insuring all five employees, if they elected to go with the family plan, would be an additional $108,000 per year. 

Wiese said since Willow Creek employees work for the City of Henning, the city cannot just offer the full-time employees at Willow Creek a single health insurance policy, which was originally desired by the city council on Oct. 3. 

Henning councilman Jim Haberer asked Augustus how much money the additional employees could generate in revenue if there was additional staff to fill the remaining two vacant apartments. 

By averaging the amount of services currently being offered at the facility, Augustus said Willow Creek could expect an around $3,500 in additional revenue each month if the two apartments are filled. Currently the facility has two open apartments. 

Henning City Councilman Scott Hart said he would be in favor of offering a large raise to part-time employees, like $5 an hour, until the city can get a policy in place to either offer only single coverage to Willow Creek employees, or ensure the additional insurance would attract more employees. 

Sapp said even with a $5 an hour raise Willow Creek would be paying a similar wage than other assisted living facilities in the region. She also contended that people cannot live on a part-time pay, and as a result, increasing the employees to full-time with benefits could attract additional applicants.

Currently the city is waiting for a long anticipated wage rate study for city employees. The city has been working on the study for a bulk of the year, but still does not have a completed study to detail fair and competitive wages for each position within the City of Henning. 

When asked by Hart where the city’s books stands in terms of profits and loss at the assisted living facility, new city clerk/treasurer Jenna Kovarik said the city’s books are still being updated.

Wiese elaborated that the city’s books were in the process of being reconciled dating back to February. 

Hart then asked Augustus what the minimum amount of full-time employees would be needed to make Willow Creek run effectively. 

Augustus said she would need four additional full-time employees, which would be one LPN and three universal workers to fill each of the shifts. 

Augustus said the consistency of having the same employees at shifts would be a benefit to not only other staff members but residents at Willow Creek as well. Due to a dramatic increase in the amount of residents on services in recent years, she said the facility is generating more revenue and has additional needs for staff members to help the residents. 

“In my personal opinion I would rather have full-time employees so I know I have dedicated workers that I know will show up every day,” she said. 

Wiese then asked Augustus if she would be seeking raises for employees should a lack of applicants apply for the new full-time positions, which would be in addition to offering insurance. 

Augustus said she did not want potential raises to be taken off the table for employees.

In the end, Hart said he understood the benefit of having consistent staff members at Willow Creek and made a motion to hire four full-time employees at Willow Creek, which included an LPN and three universal workers. He also said employees must reapply for the positions.

The motion carried 3-0 with Hart, Haberer and Wes Johnson voting in favor of the motion. Councilwoman Tammy Fosse was not at last week’s special meeting.

Wiese, who only votes in the event of a tie, said he was against the proposal.