The headquarters of Petersburg Municipal Power and Light is undergoing renovations this fall. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Petersburg will be seeking a new superintendent for the borough’s electrical utility after moving away from a controversial and cost-saving plan for oversight of that department. Petersburg’s assembly Monday approved a job description and directed the manager to start advertising for applicants.

Borough staff proposed a new job description for the next superintendent of Petersburg Municipal Power and Light. Qualifications include 5-7 years staff supervision and experience as a manager in a public utility along with knowledge of hydro electric and diesel generation and distribution systems.
New assembly member and electrician Brandi Marohl wanted to seek more experience.

“I personally think that there needs to be more experience and knowledge of the electrical trade in this one,” Marohl said. Marohl moved to amend the job description to require at least 6-8 years journeyman electrician experience. Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht cautioned that the specific language could limit applicants who have trained in the electrical trade in certain parts of the country.

“Not every state does the specific, Pacific Northwest, California, Alaska all of that does the journeyman apprentice, you get into some places just don’t do that,” Giesbrecht explained. “It’s a different training world. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just saying, it is different.”

The last person in that job, Joe Nelson, retired at the end of June after 14 years. Since then public works director Karl Hagerman has been the interim head of the department with employee Scott Newman overseeing day to day operations. Hagerman has also been in charge of capital projects in Power and Light during that time.

The assembly considered job descriptions, salaries and posting from around the country. Jeigh Stanton Gregor noted that requirements varied greatly depending on the job and he wanted to keep Petersburg’s job description with more general language.

“If I had my way I would be talking with Karl Hagerman about him filling the position but since he withdrew his name for it the best I can hope for is I like a really broad spectrum that we can work for from drawing from a whole bunch of different talent pools and I prefer the wording as it is right to give us more options,” Stanton Gregor said.

The borough had originally looked at restructuring departments, with Hagerman taking on a new role of utility director with oversight of the electrical department. That plan ran into opposition from the public and several of the candidates elected in October. Hagerman has since withdrawn his name but said he’d continue on with the interim oversight until a permanent replacement was found.

The vote to change the job description failed with only Marohl, Mark Jensen and Jeff Meucci voting for it. The proposed job description unchanged passed on a 4-3 vote with those three also voting against it. The assembly then approved a salary range of 90,000-110,000 dollars.

Other electrical utility managers in Southeast have annual salaries ranging from 84,000-152,000 dollars. Other costs for advertising, applicant visits and relocation could total nearly 40-thousand dollars. The assembly will have to approve a supplemental budget at a later date to cover those costs.

Kurt Wohlhuter sought to reconsider the job description the assembly had approved with the hopes of lessening the requirements for experience. However, his motion to reconsider failed with only three votes in favor.

The borough plans to start advertising the position and hopes to bring three finalists to town for interviews.