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City Hall sits along Main Avenue Dec. 28, 2017, in downtown Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — The city is tired of being a “fishing hole” for other local governments in Idaho.

The Twin Falls City Council on Monday unanimously ratified a request from human resources to create an employee retention compensation program. The program allows some employees to sign a three-year commitment and get incentive money they can collect in cash or put into retirement or health savings.

The hope is to encourage some employees to postpone retirement while making Twin Falls a more attractive place for people to stay — instead of leaving for jobs in Boise and other cities.

“We’re fishing, too,” Human Resources Director Gretchen Scott said. “We need people for our positions.”

Twin Falls has adjusted its salary table significantly since 2012, with the average wage increasing 35.6 percent. But as the city tries to adjust those salary tables as needed, competitors are increasing theirs by more than 4 percent, Scott said. Twin Falls is struggling with recruiting employees, and top applicants have often withdrawn their applications because they’ve received better offers.

“Roughly, we’re hiring about 30 people a year — that’s about 10 percent of our organization,” Scott said.

Twin Falls has 131 employees with 10 years or more but only 54 employees have worked between five and nine years with the city. There are 113 employees with four or fewer years.

If the city can’t retain its employees, she said, it loses knowledge that could be passed onto newer workers to keep public service consistent. Twin Falls also has to spend large amounts of money in training certain staff members to get them required certifications.

“I would certainly like to keep our best and brightest here,” Councilman Greg Lanting said.

Scott anticipates some savings to occur in not having to retrain and rehire for positions.

The city intends to implement the program this year by offering all employees with five years or more of service the option to commit to another three years. Employees with five to nine years would get $2,500 and those with 10 or more years would get $5,000. If they chose to leave before three years is up, that money will be owed back to the city.

The estimated cost if all eligible employees signed this year would be $986,000 taken out of reserves. In the next two years, that would go down substantially to about $216,000. Employees would be allowed to sign a commitment at five years, and then in five-year increments.

Two members of the public were strongly opposed to the Council’s decision, and chose to speak during the public comment period at the end of the meeting.

“It’s a salary increase that isn’t a salary increase,” Twin Falls resident Mike Jones said. “If you want to keep the people in this city, pay them a good wage to start out with. I appreciate your decision, but I think it’s wrong.”

Terry Edwards argued that a merit-based system would be more effective.

“You’ll never be a better head-hunter than your neighbor,” he said.

Also at the meeting, the Council:

  • Approved an ordinance lessening the fines for violations of short-term airport parking from $300 to $35.
  • Approved a contract with CH2M/Jacobs for approximately $3.2 million.
  • Approved a request to purchase a new sludge truck chassis for wastewater treatment.
  • Approved an ordinance annexing property at 630 Hankins Road S.

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