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City hires utilities director

The City Council agreed at its Feb. 12 meeting night to hire Kevin Westhuis as River Falls' new utilities director starting Monday, March 4.

The city has been seeking a new utilities director since longtime RFMU general manager Carl Gaulke retired in December.

The council did not discuss the consent-agenda item, but accompanying documents say Westhuis is a Wisconsin native with 15 years of utility experience including water and electric.

He gained most of that with the municipal utilities department in Fort Collins, Colo., and has worked for Wisconsin Power and Light, now known as Alliant Energy.

He holds a bachelor's degree in public administration and has also had "successful private ventures in realty, director services and a video-production company."

Other action

With little discussion, the council finalized its new pay-for-performance compensation plan for city employees that became effective Jan. 1 but had an appeals process that recently ended.

The city worked on a different pay structure after the state's Act 10 law eliminated most collective bargaining for public-sector employees.

River Falls introduced the new pay structure in November, allowing time for staff members to appeal the decision about where they 'landed' on the new pay scale.

The consultant who conducted a pay study and evaluated positions had said the new structure is a hybrid of step- and performance-based pay ranges.

The city received eight appeals and as a result made five pay-grade adjustments. Two of those affect the budget immediately by about $4,000. The other adjustments give those staff members the capacity to earn more in future years.

Quality of life in River Falls took center stage for a few minutes at the council meeting with staff from community planning and development highlighting the city's hard-won designations that signify many aspects of a good, healthy community.

They include

  • Bicycle Friendly Community
  • Bird City USA
  • Playful City USA
  • Tree City USA.

The designations each require that the city meet certain standards each year, and they generally benefit the community through -- maintaining bike trails, routes, a club; observing Migratory Bird Day the first Saturday of May; investing money in play equipment and fields in both parks and neighborhoods, encouraging outdoor play; and planting as many trees as possible annually, investing at least $2 per capita toward River Falls' arboreal health.