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City Council to mull human resources post next month

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City Council members are ready to listen to why City Manager Sharon A. Addison believes the city should add a position to oversee hiring and handle other human resources activities.

Ms. Addison has proposed hiring a human resources assistant, who would earn an annual salary between $45,000 and $55,000. The confidential management employee would manage human resources services, policies and programs for the 320 city employees.

She gave a presentation at Monday night’s Watertown City Council meeting. The council took no action, but the proposal is expected to come up again at next month’s work session during a discussion about the 2013-14 budget.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith said they agree with the proposal’s concept, but Mr. Smith said “the devil is in the details.” Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns said Wednesday the city manager “makes a good case for a need for one.”

“I always thought it was kind of odd we didn’t have one,” Ms. Burns said, adding Jefferson County, where she works in Real Property Tax Services, has a personnel department.

Former City Manager Mary M. Corriveau handled many of those responsibilities on her own, although council members generally were surprised to hear many human resources policies and procedures are not written.

Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso said she is not convinced a full-time HR assistant is needed, adding a part-time position may be enough. She noted the proposal would cost between $70,000 and $80,000 once health and other benefits are included.

Under the proposal, Ms. Addison said existing policies, procedures and regulations are “inconsistent” because they are handled differently in various departments. The HR assistant would work in conjunction with the Civil Service Commission on hiring matters and in following civil service law.

“We need a much more efficient way,” Ms. Addison said.

The HR assistant would make sure employees are given mandatory annual training on such topics as safety and compliance and discrimination and sexual harassment. There also would be an orientation process for new employees.

When she started her job this summer, she said, it would have been helpful to go through such an orientation.

The HR assistant would create policies or revise outdated policies for vehicle, cellphone, drug and alcohol use, as well as workplace violence and overtime. The assistant also would write an employee handbook.

Under Ms. Addison’s long-term plan, she would like to establish an HR department with a director and staff to handle payroll, benefits and other duties. Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. was surprised to learn the city does not have some of those policies.

“It’s definitely a different world where I came from,” Mr. Butler said. He is employed at Community Bank.

Similar in size to the city of Watertown, the cities of Geneva and Ithaca have human resources director positions, Ms. Addison said.

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