EagleHerald Staff Writer

MARINETTE—The City of Marinette is struggling to recruit and retain qualified employees.

The Personnel & License Committee approved Tuesday a motion to amend the city’s vacation policy for new employees in an attempt to mitigate this problem. Moving forward, full-time employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2021 will receive 10 days of vacation prorated to their date of hire in their first calendar year.

Mayor Steve Genisot said he hopes the amendment will help attract more qualified candidates.

“A lot of employees are coming from jobs where they have several weeks of vacation, and our current policy has quite a long vesting period to get their first two weeks,” he said.

Human Resource Director Jen Nelson said that lack of vacation for new hires is a significant barrier for recruitment.

“It’s really hard to recruit new candidates when, during the first year that they’re working, they have no vacation at all,” she said. “We’ve lost some really good candidates due to the fact that we could not offer vacation.”

In addition to helping the city recruit qualified candidates, Nelson said she thought the new policy could improve work quality for recently hired employees.

“Productivity would probably increase (with this amendment),” she said. “If they’re working for a year without vacation, they’re going to get burnt out.”

Personnel & License Committee Chairperson and Alderperson Rick Polzin said he felt the change will have a positive impact.

“I know it’s been a real significant barrier in the last couple hirings that we’ve had,” he said. “The interviewees brought it up, so I think we need to do something. This is a step in the right direction to ensure that we get some qualified candidates working for us.”

The council also unanimously approved Tuesday a motion to expand the residency requirement for municipal office employees with the same objective of increasing the applicant pool. The expansion increases the residency requirement from a 15 mile radius of the city’s jurisdictional boundaries to a 30 mile radius.

The Personnel & License Committee previously discussed the residency requirement at an Aug. 17 meeting.

“(The residency expansion) would be very beneficial to us in the recruiting and retention process and getting a larger pool of applicants,” Police Chief Jon LaCombe said at the Aug. 17 meeting. “A lot of officers have spouses or families living in Green Bay or working in Green Bay, and it’d be nice for them to be a little farther south so they can split the driving distance.”

Public Works Director Patrick Carlson and Fire Chief Jay Heckel agreed that changing the requirement would help their respective departments recruit candidates.

“It’s been very challenging to fill certain positions, especially when it comes to getting (Commercial Driver Licenses),” Carlson said.

Heckel added, however, that expanding residency could increase delays for callback personnel.

“For me, unfortunately, it’s a catch-22,” he said. “I rely on callback personnel, and that kind of hurts me a little bit. The tradeoffs remain to be seen.”

City Attorney Robert Gagan said the city can legally update its residency requirement as long as it complies with Wisconsin Statute 66.0502, which states that local governments can impose a 15 mile or greater residency requirement only on emergency personnel. He said the city’s definition of emergency personnel includes department heads as well as employees in the Police, Fire and Public Works Departments.