Haugland’s maintenance position up for discussion

by Heather Reinhart
Contributing Writer
Zimmerman City Administrator Randy Piasecki asked the City Council to approve the termination of public maintenance technician Tom Haugland during Monday night’s City Council Meeting. Haugland was injured on the job nine months ago and remains on medical leave with an unknown return to work date.

Haugland sustained a brain injury when he was installing a blower at the Wastewater Treatment Facility and a door swung down and hit him. Haugland is receiving regular treatment at Courage Kenny and is about to begin and intensive 20-week treatment program at another facility. Haugland and his family asked the board to give him another 90 days to see how well he responds to this new treatment.

“More than likely, I will be able to come back, but it all takes time,” said Haugland, who has been working as a public maintenance technician for the city since 2000.

“They expect great things to come from him in the next 90 days,” added Shelly Haugland, Tom’s wife. “All we’re asking is for 90 days. It was an on-the-job injury. You at least own him, after 17 years, another 90 days. We obviously didn’t ask for this injury. He was just doing his job.”

Zimmerman Mayor Dave Earenfight said the unknown is scary to him and added that even if Haugland was cleared to return to work, he’d worry that another injury may occur due to the demands of the job and cause further damage.

“(I tend to be) more receptive to the staff’s recommendation because of the unknown of the future,” he said. “We could be jeopardizing you and the city to the point that we’d have no control of it.”

Piasecki said the position has remained open for the past nine months and others on the staff have picked up the additional workload. He said he regrettably recommended Haugland’s termination so that the city could begin the process of rehiring.

Council Member Beth Smith also shared concerns of keeping Haugland on.

“We could wait another 90 days and still not have any resolution,” she said. “We risk losing other people because they’re so frustrated that they’re overworked and can’t take time off.”

In the end, Earenfight made a motion to accept the termination, but the motion died for lack of a second.

In other matters Monday, the council:
•Approved the equipment trade for the Public Works Department, which was discussed at the last council meeting. The city will be trading in its 2012 New Holland TV6070 tractor and 2000 John Deere 1445 mower and mower deck for newer and more useful equipment. It will receive a new non-current 2015 John Deere 5115M tractor, John Deere 1585 commercial mower and John Deere 72-inch mower deck from Midwest Machinery Company of Princeton. This will be an even trade. It was noted that the pricing of the new equipment is less than current state contract pricing.