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Trial by fire (copy)

Baraboo Fire Department crew members watch the inside of a house burn during a March training exercise in the town of Prairie du Sac.

As they begin drafting their 2019 budget, city of Baraboo leaders are considering adding staff positions. These could include assistants for the city administrator and fire chief, as well as a part-time judge if the Common Council opts to establish a municipal court.

Deputy manager

On Tuesday the council’s Finance/Personnel Committee discussed several potential staff additions. Topping the list was a personnel manager who could double as City Administrator Ed Geick’s assistant. The city currently has no staff dedicated to human resources. Geick and others share those duties.

Department heads and committee members agreed the city should have a point person in charge of HR to keep up with rapidly changing rules and regulations.

“I think you open up some liability there,” said council member Scott Sloan. “There’s a lot of cracks things can fall through.”

Creating a hybrid position that would have the HR manager double as the deputy city administrator could help ease the workload created when developers approach Geick about building projects.

“I think it’s important for us to be as responsive to the public as possible,” Geick said.

Training officer

Fire Chief Kevin Stieve made a pitch for adding a full-time training officer to his staff. The assistant chief currently is in charge of training, but Stieve said adding a full-time training officer would offer several benefits. “What this person would bring would be consistency across the board,” he said.

In addition to leading training efforts, this officer would respond to daytime calls and handle administrative duties. “If we can beef up staffing, we don’t have to pull people away from work on minor calls,” Stieve said.

The need for another full-time staffer — Stieve and Fire Inspector Tom Clark are the only full-time staff leading a crew of paid-by-the-call volunteers — was one of several recommendations made by a consultant who studied department operations. Some aspects of those recommendations, including assigning volunteers to shifts and placing them on call, have been controversial.

“This one was pretty well supported by that (implementation) team,” Stieve said.

Municipal court

Other Sauk County communities — Reedsburg, Sauk Prairie and Spring Green — operate municipal courts. This allows them to keep fine revenue while removing petty crimes from the circuit court system. For the city of Baraboo this would require appointing — and paying — a judge.

Establishing a municipal court didn’t become an option until the city moved into its new Municipal Building this year. City staff are working on budget estimates to determine how much fine revenue might be generated and how much staff cost the city might incur by creating a court. An analysis of other communities’ wage scales shows those of comparable size generally pay judges $11,000 to $13,000 per year.

“It could pay for itself,” said council member Joel Petty.

City Attorney Emily Truman said if Baraboo opts to establish a municipal court, she would recommend requiring that the judge be a licensed attorney. In other communities, judges come from a variety of professional fields.

IT, intern

The city currently relies on help from Sauk County staff for information technology issues. While not considered a pressing need, city leaders suggested adding a computer technician to the staff in the future. Sloan said the city might be better served outsourcing IT work to a private company. “It’s not something you steadily need, but when you need it, you need it fast,” he said.

An intern is another potential staff addition. The city hired an intern to facilitate communication with affected businesses during South Boulevard’s reconstruction in 2014. Geick said the Wisconsin City Management Association offers matching funds for members that hire graduate-level students as interns. The committee said an intern might be helpful once the state rebuilds Highway 33.

Follow Ben Bromley on Twitter @ben_bromley or call him at 745-3507.

Baraboo News Republic Senior Reporter