Village of Kronenwetter to close office on Fridays due to staffing issues

The Friday closures are scheduled to continue through October 7
Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 2:17 PM CDT
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KRONENWETTER, Wis. (WSAW) - The village of Kronenwetter will close its municipal office doors on Fridays until Oct. 7.

According to the interim village administrator, Duane Gau, some staff will still be in the office, but phone calls will not be answered and the doors will remain locked.

“We’ll be training, etc. They need, actually, quiet time to get some of that work done, that’s what’s happening. People don’t realize, we do have a lot of walk-ins, a lot of phone calls and we’re doing business like anybody else,” Gau said.

The closures come after the Village Board voted to hire Gau as Interim Administrator during the July 11 Village Board meeting. Gau is contracted to work 32 hours per week, he added because that is what his body can afford to work at his age. Those hours include the time he works with the village board members.

The current administrator, Richard Downey told NewsChannel 7 that he has been on paid administrative leave since July 8. He explained he is in the middle of a mutual separation agreement negotiation with the village board. He would not say why he is leaving, as he was unsure of what that agreement says at this point as it is still being negotiated, but will be available once the board accepts the terms. Downey said he is in the process of pursuing other municipal opportunities outside of Kronenwetter.

Gau said Downey has been available for him to use as a resource in the meantime and spoke highly of his work.

“The staff has been short-handed for many weeks now,” said Gau. “These Friday closures will help us catch up on work with little distraction.”

The village has lost 10 employees over the last two years. It will be down to one more staff member at the front office, as a part-time staff member there Gau said plans to leave soon for another opportunity. While the village has been short in several departments, the public works department is stable, but the front clerk’s office is where there are the most holes.

Gau explained they have gotten behind on some work, such as permitting and well inspections, but he hopes that they will be fully staffed by the end of the month. Residents should still expect to pay bills on time.

Gau had been filling in as interim public works director while the village worked to hire Dan Hekrdle. Hekrdle accepted the position in June. In addition to his interim administration position, Gau is also acting as the interim economic development director as the village works to hire that position. Gau said the board is reviewing a candidate for that position. The board also has an offer out for the utility clerk position.

A new village clerk is scheduled to start Monday. Gau said she will be focused on election preparation initially as there is less than a month until the August primary. During the vacancy in the position, Gau said the Marathon County clerk’s office assisted in sending out absentee ballots for those who had requested them.

Gau, who is on a citizen’s committee in Weston and has held interim positions for municipalities around north central Wisconsin explained a lot of other municipalities are facing short staffing, so it is tough to get help from other municipalities as their workload pile up too.

He said the reason for people leaving varies, with some retiring, and others using their jobs at the village as a stepping stone for larger municipalities and opportunities. The village is not offering any blanket incentives to hire new people; Gau said any negotiating happens during closed session as individuals are being hired and is based on experience and education levels.

“For our citizens, it’s going to be a little tough,” Gau admitted. “Once we get to full staff, I’m hoping that we’ll get the service back to them that they deserve.”

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