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Park assistant hire OKed, but not without battle

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Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Critics questioned whether Pierce County needs two year-round workers --- each costing the county about $60,000 a year --- to manage what amounts to a one-park program.

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But last week the finance and personnel committee voted to refill the fulltime assistant park supervisor position.

Park Superintendent Scott Schoepp said that, along with managing 752-acre Nugget Lake County Park, he supervises the county's snowmobile trails, a recently-acquired county forest and now the county shooting range.

The parks department has a 2007 budget of $237,000 and anticipates collecting about $77,000 in fees. Schoepp's current salary is $55,827 plus fringe benefits. The assistant superintendent's pay would be about $43,000. Fringe benefits would bring the cost of that employee to at least $57,000.

Schoepp said he has had a full-time assistant since 1991, but the position has been vacant since last summer. He said that, during five months of the year, the department operates seven--rather than five--days a week plus evenings and holidays.

Along with the year-round workers, the department employs 4.2 seasonal staff who work 40 hours a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

County Board Chairman Paul Barkla suggested replacing the assistant superintendent with a park ranger with less responsibility and less pay, and having Schoepp devote more time to promoting the park.

"We are swamped with day-to-day activities that allow us very little time to do promotional activities," replied Schoepp.

Barkla also suggested employing the park ranger to work 35 hours a week for the rest of 2007.

"Thirty-five hours a week isn't enough," protested Schoepp, insisting he needs help. "I don't have that much gas left in the tank."

He said he had a fulltime assistant superintendent for 15 years and the park duties are greater than they were 15 years ago.

"I need somebody that I can put some responsibility on," said Schoepp.

Supervisor Rich Purdy wondered if an employee could be hired to work 40 hours a week during the summer and 35 in the winter.

That wouldn't be enough because maintenance work is done in the winter, said Schoepp. "You have to give me the tools to succeed."

Although the committee voted to refill the position, Purdy, who serves on the human services board, said he is reluctant to spend the money.

Dozens of children are on a waiting list for long-term support services.

"When I see (potential funding) someplace else, I think of those kids," said Purdy.

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