Two Harbors council hires another finance director, delays trails decisionThe Two Harbors City Council hired the city’s second finance director in as many months at its regular meeting Monday night.
By: Tom Olsen, Lake County News Chronicle
The Two Harbors City Council hired the city’s second finance director in as many months at its regular meeting Monday night.
The board accepted the resignation of Dan Jones, effective July 9, and approved a new contract for Miranda Pietila, effective Aug. 5.
“She’s thrilled with it and very excited to get started,” said Terri Kragseth of Encompass Solutions, a firm that was hired to conduct the search for a new director.
Jones, a former eight-year city councilor, had been unanimously approved as the new director at the council’s June 17 meeting, filling a position vacated by Richard Sundstrom, who had retired.
However, Jones was unhappy with the offer he was given, which led to back-and-forth negotiation and his eventual resignation. Pietila, who holds degrees in accounting and finance, was then offered the position.
Pietila accepted the same offer that Jones had challenged, Kragset said. The contract is for one year and calls for a $68,826 salary.
“She was a very strong candidate,” Kragseth told the council. “In fact, some of us were torn over who to offer the position to.”
The hiring of Pietila appears to put to an end to a saga that became more expensive and drawn-out than city officials had intended. The city recently settled a grievance filed by city employee Gail Ostman, who has assumed some of the duties of finance director while the position has been vacant. At its previous meeting, the council agreed to pay Ostman an additional $142 a month, retroactive to Jan. 1 when she assumed the duties.
Trail put on hold
The much-discussed trail that would be built behind Super One and Shopko was again put on hold by the council Monday night.
The council was scheduled to take action on it, but instead decided to hold off on it and ask the contractor for a 60-day extension to work out some financial unknowns regarding an underpass that would cross the CN railroad.
“We want to make sure we have a document to say that no additional funding will be needed before we proceed,” City Administrator Lee Klein said.
The trail, which councilors said they were originally told would be covered by grants, has been a sticking point at recent meetings. The city is responsible for overages.
At its last regular meeting, a representative of Ayres Associates, the lowest bidder for the project, appeared to ask for an additional $24,000, on top of approximately $100,000 previously requested.
Councilor Cathy Erickson requested the 60-day extension Monday to give time for additional community with the firm, and fellow councilors unanimously agreed.
The city council and county board need to sign on to the project for it to proceed. The county also delayed action at its Tuesday meeting in wake of the council’s decision.
Another trail in the works?
As if one trail wasn’t enough, the council discussed a proposed second new trail for the city at its Monday finance meeting. A proposal to build a trail from South Street to Lighthouse Point was referred to the city’s trees and trails committee.
The city may be able to get some matching funds for construction through a state park grant program, although just how much is unclear.
Mayor Randy Bolen said he has had several people approach him about building a trail in that location.
“It would be a good candidate (for funding),” he said. “I’d like to see some type of safe access.”
However, funding and construction on the project would not come until at least 2015. So, for the time being, it was referred to the trees and trails committee to discuss.
“We want to at least get the ball rolling,” Bolen said. “Government can be so slow at times.”