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Wages too low?

City of Osakis department leaders agreed at the May 7 city council meeting that low wages have been a problem in Osakis for some time.

"I'm extremely short of help," Julie Didier, manager of the municipal liquor store, said. "Nobody wants to work anymore. I'll say it, millenials don't want to work."

The liquor store has two full-time bartenders and one part-time employee. Keeping people employed there, especially part-time, has been a real issue, Didier said.

Part-time employees at the liquor store were given $10 per hour and that wasn't enough to keep people there, according to Didier.

"You can get more working at McDonald's," Didier said.

Osakis Public Works Superintendent Greg Gottwald requested the council approve a wage raise for the part-time employee that takes care of the mowing and lawns in the city during the summer, Derek Lang.

Gottwald requested a raise to $14 per hour, citing that Lang was such a reliable and hard-worker that he was worth investing in. There was some discussion about whether a smaller wage would be appropriate but Gottwald defended his suggested wage, stating that the city didn't want to lose Lang's contributions to the city.

"The man is a working-machine," council member Jim Snyder said of Lang.

The council approved the $14 per hour increased wage.

The city is responding to this repeated issue with some scattered wage increases for part-time employees.

Osakis Police Chief Chad Gulbranson discussed how low pay was when he started at the police department. That low wage made it very hard to keep quality part-time people with the police department, Gulbranson said.

The police department just hired a new part-time officer, Timothy Korinta. Part-time officers are now paid $18 a hour.

"I think that (pay raise) has a lot to do with keeping good people," Gulbranson said.

At its March 12 meeting, the council approved a $1 raise per hour for the city lifeguards, giving lifeguards $11 per hour and the head lifeguard $11.50 per hour.

After Didider suggested that losing employees as frequently as she does makes running the liquor store much harder, council member Justin Dahlheimer proposed a motion to increase part-time liquor store employee's wages up to $12.50 per hour. The motion was unanimously approved with the condition that the manager has discretion on whether she wants to pay the $12.50, depending on qualifications.

The council is hoping the wage increases will lead to higher retention and less turnover within city departments. Going through the hiring and training process can amount to a large loss of productivity, according to city department leaders.

Only time will tell if the increases have the desired effect, but all three lifeguards from last year have decided to return this year which means less time training new employees and, of course, the lifeguards will have a little more spending money in their pockets.