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Crosslake Communications reviews options for employee replacement

Crosslake Communications general manager Paul Hoge presented suggestions to the Crosslake City Council at its Monday, July 14, meeting to replace departing network engineer Paul Davis.

Davis resigned from the company June 30 with a three-week notice, and his last day is Friday, July 18.

The resignation comes a month after the council hired Charlesmead Advisors, a Baltimore-based consulting firm, to review the efficiency of Crosslake Communications. At that May 27 meeting, council members expressed concern that staff levels exceeded what may be necessary, and hoped a professional consultation would shed light on whether adjustments should be made.

Hoge emphasized the importance of the network engineer position, noting Davis built the Internet service provider used in the city when he was hired in 2004 and currently oversees the city's 15 servers.

He recommended the company hire Davis as a contractor, retaining his services until a replacement network engineer was hired and felt comfortable taking over while continuing to use business-to-business technology company 7Sigma Systems as a "backup solution."

Hoge asked the council to take action quickly to replace the position, noting that if they chose to wait until receiving results of Charlesmead's assessment in August, it might push the actual hiring of a replacement until October.

"I have had no indication after discussing our current staffing with Charlesmead that we are overstaffed," Hoge wrote in a memo to the council.

Representatives from Charlesmead visited Crosslake Communications on July 1, but council member John Moengen said he has not spoken with the consultant since and does not have any sort of report at this point.

Moengen suggested the council needed time to consider available options and expressed reticence at the idea of hiring Davis as a contractor, noting he was leaving Crosslake Communications to work for Emily Cooperative Telephone Company. Emily's company receives Internet service from Crosslake and represents a "substantial amount" of revenue, posing a potential conflict of interest.

The council questioned Hoge on the potential cost of relying on 7Sigma for network monitoring until a new hire is made, and Hoge responded that he didn't have those numbers available, in part because that was not what he hoped the council would do.

"I thought we were always being local people helping local people," he said. "If you want to call somebody from India and they can't understand, that's a choice, too."

The council chose to continue its meeting to Tuesday, July 15, to discuss the personnel issue, where they voted to retain 7Sigma to complete essential duties of the network engineer position, while also advertising the position in local newspapers.

Moengen said that currently, Crosslake Communications pays 7Sigma $2,000 per month to work as its backup. With a 30-day agreement for temporary services, the company will pay 7Sigma an additional $4,000 a month, totaling $6,000.

If Crosslake Communications chose to use the company for at least one year or more, the additional cost per month would be reduced to $3,000.

Moengen said Charlesmead's upcoming report may help to determine which direction to go on this issue, but it will not be something the council has to follow to the letter.

"Ultimately, the council has to make the decision," he said. "OK, here's all the information they're going to give us, and what are we going to do with it?"

Chelsey Perkins

Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in professional journalism at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Perkins interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins, and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before becoming the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as the county government beat reporter at the Dispatch and a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

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