The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Council makes haste for new clinic hires


Ben Faust | Providence Seward

Harmon Construction workers install heated sidewalks at the entrance of the local medical center and hospital this spring. Providence Alaska will be moving out of the clinic portion of the city owned building to make way for the Seward Community Health Center.

The Seward City Council introduced significant changes to city ordinances for public hearing at Monday night's regular meeting. Ordinance 2013-013 makes way for employees of the upcoming Seward Community Health Center to be hired as city employees for a limited time and without access to the city's retirement system. The ordinance would also amend portions of existing city code relating to employees to carve out those and other exceptions for the new SCHC hires.

The city and the SCHC nonprofit corporation were co-applicants for a federal program that requires that any grant funds be administered by a governmental entity. The second of two applications by the city and the local nonprofit met with approval and a continuing annual grant was announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Nov. 7. Within the federal department the Health Resources and Services Administration agency oversees the grant and funds for the SCHC will be deposited with the City of Seward.

Now that the SCHC is funded and maintains an active local board, the city is disengaging from the start-up process as the new clinic moves toward operations. The two will remain partners at the funding level, but the nonprofit's board now has the sole responsibility of organizing the new medical clinic's facility, hiring its employees and operating the center on a continuing basis.

The SCHC board has requested that the city accommodate the new clinic employees within the city's personnel system, in part because of a looming Feb. 28 deadline. The grant requires that the center be in full operation by that date, ready to provide health care to the community. In public discussions, the council has agreed that developing and implementing a personnel management system for SCHC in that short period would be extremely difficult, not to mention hiring new employees.

The adoption of the city's personnel code and payroll system will alleviate that burden and allow efforts to focus on other aspects of getting the SCHC operational. Another critical factor justifying the move to hire SCHC employees within the city's system was a matter of recruitment. Advertising hiring into the city's personnel system helps increase the appeal to candidates for jobs at the SCHC.

A special meeting for a public hearing of the new ordinance is scheduled for noon, Dec. 16 at the city council chambers. Accompanying resolutions will include one asserting the council's privilege to approve a candidate for executive director of the SCHC. A second resolution will exercise that privilege in approving the hire of Sharon Montagnino to that position, assuming that both are passed by the council.

The ordinance requires a public hearing before the council can enact the changes. Enacted changes take effect 10 days after.


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