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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Township increases monthly pay for clerk

Controversies following the reduction in clerk pay led to two former clerk’s resigning

Jodi Summit
Posted 1/18/23

GREENWOOD TWP- The town clerk here finally has a pay raise. At their regular meeting Jan. 10, the Greenwood Town Board agreed on a 4-1 vote to increase the wage for the town clerk from $1,487 to …

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Township increases monthly pay for clerk

Controversies following the reduction in clerk pay led to two former clerk’s resigning

Posted

GREENWOOD TWP- The town clerk here finally has a pay raise. At their regular meeting Jan. 10, the Greenwood Town Board agreed on a 4-1 vote to increase the wage for the town clerk from $1,487 to $1,853 a month, Supervisor Mike Ralston voting against.
Interim Clerk JoAnn Bassing brought the issue to the board. She was appointed to fill the position after the former clerk, Debby Spicer, quit due to conflicts with the board over her pay. Spicer had refused to complete tasks that had previously been part of the clerk’s duties, saying she wasn’t paid enough to take on tasks that weren’t specifically required by state statute for a township clerk.
The board had reduced the clerk’s pay back in the summer of 2021, when now Chair Sue Drobac was clerk. In response, Drobac resigned from the position, citing the lack of time to properly complete the required and expected clerk duties.
Bassing had discussed the issue with the board at a previous meeting, noting that while she had been willing to put in a lot of extra hours to get the township office operating properly, she felt the township had a responsibility to make the salary for the job commensurate with the hours needed to complete the duties, both required and expected. At the Jan. 10 meeting, Bassing had said she was not sure if she was going to file, but as of Jan. 17, she was the only person to file for the clerk open seat.
The pay change will go into effect in February.

Ambulance subsidy
There appeared to be a minor softening of the town board’s position on paying the township’s share of the $15 per capita ambulance subsidy for the Tower Area Ambulance Service.
Drobac wondered if the township could set up a meeting with Tower Council members, or send a letter, to start a discussion on the issue of the indemnity clause, which the ambulance commission had voted to remove.
Greenwood is the only member of the group that has refused to pay the subsidy amount for 2022.
“The issue left is the liability,” said Supervisor Barb Lofquist. “That can be discussed.”
Supervisor Rick Stoehr said township taxpayers are indirectly supporting the ambulance through a small subsidy the service receives from St. Louis County.
Lofquist wondered if they should get their current attorney to review the issue.
“We should ask if our butts are covered,” she said. “The other townships think it is. I think we should pay them [Tower Ambulance].”
“Are we going to die on that indemnification hill or not?” asked Ralston. “If they put it back in, we can pay it back.”
Drobac said she trusted the opinion from their former attorney, Mike Couri, who had insisted the clause be inserted into the ambulance subsidy agreement. The clause puts all responsibility for any issues that arise on an ambulance call scene on the city of Tower, even if it stems from actions of township employees who are First Responders, and not members of the Tower Ambulance Service.
The board took no formal action on this issue.
Board members received a copy of the Tower Ambulance Ad Hoc Committee’s draft report on options for management of the ambulance service.
Supervisor Barb Lofquist, who attended the final meeting of that committee, said the report had no names attached to it, and she had no idea who had written it.
“I am not going to another meeting,” she said.
Lofquist said the draft’s recommended option of forming a joint powers board to run the service was not in the township’s best interest because of the tax implications.
“We already got screwed on 2142,” she said, referencing the school district’s reorganization plan where the tax burden fell heavily on Greenwood property owners.
Lofquist said the results of the McGrath ambulance study, which had just come to the town board members in draft form, “will make a big difference” in the discussion on this issue.

Other business
In other business, the town board:
• Discussed several issues brought up by interim Treasurer Jeff Maus, including combining the township savings accounts into one account, and then just tracking funds through internal bookkeeping. The township has some dedicated savings accounts, such as the Isle of Pines bridge replacement account. Maus said this was the recommendation from the Minnesota Association of Townships (MAT) and the state auditor. Ralston asked how interest payments for each account would be accurately tracked. The board tabled the request and will seek more information.
Maus, along with interim Clerk JoAnn Bassing, asked for permission to make some changes to the township’s accounts in the township’s accounting software, known as CTAS, so they accurately reflect township financials. Bassing said the CTAS numbers (a state accounting system for townships) were inaccurately entered about 15 years ago, and there was no way to change them. She said if they could start the year with the accurate year-end information from 2022, the CTAS accounts would be accurate moving forward, and this would give the town board an “extra layer of balancing” for the township financials. This would also make it easier for the clerk and treasurer to be working on the same month’s financials for each month. As it is, said Bassing, the clerk’s ledger duties lag a month behind.
Ralston asked if the township should have an audit done. Supervisor Sue Drobac said they had talked to an area accounting firm previously about the issue, and they said it wasn’t needed and would be very expensive.
The board voted 4-1 to allow the changes, with Ralston voting against.
• Approved a contract with township attorney Mitch Brunfelt for 2023. The cost was the same as 2022. The vote was 3-2, with Ralston and Paul Skubic voting against.
• Heard that six people had signed up for the community CPR class set for Jan. 18.

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