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City may add positions, up wages

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news Dickinson, 58602
The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Since Dickinson's needs have changed dramatically over the last year, city officials are looking at doing a "reforecast" of the 2011 city budget. The process will help them determine if a wage increase for city employees and additional positions in city departments are needed this year.

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"I've asked the whole leadership team to develop an employee matrix that would indicate what their employment needs are going to be," said City Administrator Shawn Kessel.

He is in the process of reviewing the information submitted to him and said nearly all city departments feel they need more staff.

"My plan is to put it into a comprehensive report for the city commission that I'll present to them," Kessel said. "And we'll talk about the staff that I think is appropriate and we'll talk about how we pay that staff, what the revenue streams are, all that will be covered in that report, but I haven't even started that."

Mayor Dennis Johnson said while it's new for the city, reorganizing a budget after it's been established is common in private businesses.

"I think it's very necessary to reforecast because I think the environment, the intensity of the oil impact is greater than we thought it would be eight or nine months ago when we started the budget for 2011," Johnson said.

If things go as predicted, the Dickinson Police Department will likely be asking for four additional officers to be added to their staff this year, said Capt. Dustin Dassinger.

"We're not short-handed, but we want to make sure that we're ahead of the curve down the road here this summer and maybe even later this spring if our activity level picks up," he said. "We are seeing what we consider more medium risk events, which are calls which require at least two officers to respond to at the same time to handle effectively and to make sure the safety of the officer is there as well."

In February 2009, DPD had 999 calls for service while 1,472 came in this year in February, Dassinger said. There were 263 more calls DPD responded to in January 2011 compared to 2009, he added.

Johnson said the shift in calls is a definite concern.

"We only have on any given shift maybe three or four officers on duty," he said. "So one of our concerns would be what if we get three medium risk calls going at the same time?"

Other city departments likely need more positions as well, he added.

"When you look at what the street department has to contend with every day -- there's certainly a lot more traffic on the streets," Johnson said. "It appears to me there's many more potholes this year than say, a year ago at this time."

However, he is leaning away from adding positions in 2011.

"They're probably needed right now, but I would probably be more apt to add those in 2012," he said. "Things are changing fairly rapidly so I wouldn't completely rule it out, but I think my priority would be some sort of wage and salary adjustment first."

If a wage increase is approved, it would either be across the board, or for city positions that compete most with oilfield jobs, Johnson said.

Funding for raises or added positions may come from a variety of places, Johnson said.

"For one, we could collect more revenue than we budgeted," Johnson said.

He added funds could be taken from "cushion funds" in the general fund.

"Also, I believe Dickinson will receive special consideration for oil impact funds from the legislature," Johnson said.

The Dickinson City Commission will have to vote before changing anything in the budget, Johnson said.

"Right now it's all speculation," Kessel said.

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