Council Discusses Potential Challenges of Communications Department

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Creation of Communications Department Moves Forward

At Tuesday’s meeting, the City of Marshfield Common Council voted 8-2 in favor of creating a Communications Department in the City. Instead of contracting out public access services (MCTV), the new department will be staffed by 2 FTE people who work for the City.

At the meeting, Alderperson Rebecca Spiros reiterated concerns she had expressed during the Finance, Budget, and Personnel meeting, highlighting several with the proposed department and the claims being made about it. Primarily, she expressed concern about the proposed staffing numbers and that the City was creating a department without a plan, completed pay grade study, or any measurables.

Currently, Marshfield’s community station is staffed by 3.5-4.5 FTE who manage three stations. The new department will be expected to complete the same duties, plus additional requirements, with 2 FTE. These additional responsibilities include the creation of a weekly newsletter for distribution, management of all social media and the City website alongside the position’s current duties of meeting coverage and community and education channels management.

“I’m going to be a ‘no’ vote on this for several reasons,” said Spiros. “I don’t believe we can get the services for 2.0 FTE. I think the services will suffer. I don’t think we’ve secured a budget at all, and considering we haven’t even taken this to our own…I have concern that there are a lot of things that have not been shored up.”

The heavy role that volunteers would have in the success of the department was addressed.

“What we learned from Wisconsin Rapids is that the volunteer network was enormous and my understanding is it’s that way in Wausau as well, but I have not confirmed that,” said Mayor Bob McManus.

Alderman Jason Zaleski asked how volunteers have historically supported the local station.

“I don’t know what that number is and I don’t know what the current, with MCTV, how they go about volunteers,” said McManus. “I have no idea what they are currently doing.”

(In OnFocus’ investigation, Wisconsin Rapids has a comparable number of volunteers to Marshfield.)

“I do not think this is a realistic budget, I think that services will suffer. I don’t think it can be done with 2 FTE. I believe give it six months and we’ll be asking for more staff,” reiterated Spiros.

Alderman Chris Jockheck also expressed concern. “Given the responsibilities and the tasks, from Facebook web to conventional TV, is there such a person out there? Those are very different fields of expertise that we’re asking for.”

Mayor Bob McManus stated that this move will result in a savings of $72,000 to the City, though the City has yet to complete a formal employment study on the cost of this department.

“There are still a number of things that need to be put in place,” said City Administrator Steve Barg. “We realize we will still have to send out the positions to our compensation consultant to actually put them in our pay grades. The idea for tonight is, is this something the council wants to do subject to working out those remaining details?”

A video of the meeting can be found at this link.

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