City keeps wage range for opening

By Karen Colbenson

A search to fill the vacant director’s position for Austin’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry will continue despite what some parks board members say is a questionable salary range for the position.

At a meeting Tuesday, the park board’s personnel committee agreed to continue the search with the original proposed salary range of $53,424 to $63,500, with the stipulation that a review of the position will be conducted within a year of the hiring.

Kim Underwood, who currently serves as the interim director with administrative duties, makes $62,500 a year. She said she plans to apply for the director’s post, but some parks board members have pointed out that her salary would only increase about $1,000 if hired at the maximum level. Long-time director Dennis Maschka made $77,000 at the time of his unexpected death in June.


According to Austin’s human resources director, Tricia Wiechmann, an outside consultant reviewed the director’s position using a point scale to set the salary range. She also confirmed the parks department has regular employees with higher salaries than the lower end of the offered salary range.

Other comparable cities, including Faribault, Winona, Owatonna and Albert Lea, have higher salary ranges for the parks and recreation director’s position, with varying responsibilities. In Albert Lea, the director makes $74,000 but also oversees the civic theater, aquatic center, senior center and arena.

"That’s more than what we have," said City Administrator Jim Hurm. "I think (the salary) could be adjusted some, but I don’t see it being (a difference of) $10,000."

Mayor Tom Stiehm said he believes the salary range being offered is "too low" but suggested another review of the position be done after the position is filled.

"They’ll have a better idea of their responsibilities and what they are doing," said Stiehm.

Wiechmann said she has received five applications so far, but expects several more by the Dec. 5 deadline.

The personnel committee will review applications Dec. 9, and interviews will be scheduled for Dec. 17-18, with a start date of mid-January.

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