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Company didn't do its homework for city



Column_headshot_JOHN_HA
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April 21, 2015 | 12:54 PM
Maybe she should have just said “the dog ate my homework.”

Ann Antonsen had the bad luck of representing her company, Springsted, before the city council last week.

She was presenting the long-awaited wage and compensation study done by the company.

I say long-awaited because it was more than four months overdue.

Antonsen was doing a lot of dancing to come up with explanations to obvious questions.

While Sarah Hill did most of the hard questioning four other city council members also expressed concerns.

I’d like to give Hill credit for being sharp and candid — which she is — but the questions and complaints she had must have been on the tips of the tongues of everyone at the meeting.

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The biggest complaint was that the study was only half done.

It failed to include information comparing fringe benefits, even though the company had signed a contract saying fringes would be included.

Fringe benefits are a huge expense and to leave them out of such a study makes a list of wages only nearly useless. It was as though she didn’t know about the omission, which she must have known about.

Under questioning she said, “Rarely do we find great differences.”

Antonsen’s response seemed like a snow job.

Her excuse was further blown out of the water when Lake Geneva City Administrator Dennis Jordan read from a study he had done.

Jordan said the fringes between communities were “all over the board.”

Oh, and Jordan gathered his information in one day.

I didn’t see the expression on Antonsen’s face but it must have been a cringe.

She said information on fringes would be available in a week.

As of presstime, a week had already passed and the city didn’t have the promised information.

One reason the study looked like a snow job was the actual document. Much of it was a tedious explanation of the study’s methodology. It would have been pro forma to do that for a slight portion of the study, but this just appeared to be a way to disguise a lack of substance. At least it saved on paper.

As for the delay in finishing the study, Antonsen said Springsted found it difficult to get the information from the communities.

When informed that wages were public information — available to anyone — Antonsen countered by saying that it had to come from the communities themselves.

At the risk of appearing arrogant I think I could have gathered the necessary information about salaries in less than a week by checking official documents on the web.

And why would conversations with someone be any more legitimate than taking the information from public documents?

Maybe the city council should take part of the blame for this debacle.

The study cost $15,175 and expenses. That may seem like a lot, but its chump change compared to the charges this city might have incurred if they had signed up with a more competent firm. You get what you pay for.

Also, the firm shouldn’t have had three bosses — Delavan and Elkhorn also took part in the study. Having to answer to three bosses is cumbersome and usually ends up with an inferior product for all concerned. On the other hand, Springsted signed a contract saying they could do it.

I’m usually a pretty laid-back guy. Hesitant to express an opinion without discussing the other side of the issue.

This time, I’m having a hard time finding the other side. Especially when the explanations seemed lame and downright devious.

There’s only two things to do now.

Don’t accept the study and don’t pay the people who did it.

Halverson is general manager of the Regional News.

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