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Proposed city-county merger: its impact on new, current employees

What will be the impact on employees of St. Louis County municipalities if the Better Together proposal to merge the St. Louis City and County gains a spot on the November 2020 ballot and is approved by voters statewide?

The answer is by no means certain but those very doubts already are creating problems in the city of Chesterfield’s hiring efforts.

“We have had people to whom we have made job offers withdraw their applications due to the uncertainties about this,” said City Administrator Mike Geisel in an interview after the issue came up during a City Council session.

No current employees have resigned thus far due to doubts about their future but that doesn’t mean concerns don’t exist.

“The fact that the proposal would eliminate service-providing municipalities is creating uncertainties for current employees as well,” Geisel noted. During the week following the formal filing of Better Together’s proposal earlier this year, the city administrator estimates he spent an average of three hours daily talking with groups of Chesterfield employees about the proposal and its impact.

“I’d have to say that comments reportedly made by [St. Louis] Mayor [Lyda] Krewson and County Executive [Steve] Stenger that no St. Louis city or county employees would lose their jobs in the downsizing of government services didn’t help much,” Geisel said. The unspoken additional comment was perceived as meaning municipal employees would be the first under the job cutter’s axe, he observed.

Geisel recalled the street maintenance and repair function is to be removed from what would be called “municipal districts” when the proposed metro city is ready to assume that service. The net result is current city employees handling that activity will become, in effect, “a group of day workers” who won’t know from one shift to the next if they still have a job, Geisel said.

In neighboring Ballwin, Haley Morrison, who heads that city’s human resources operation, said she has not yet noticed any impact on hiring efforts there. 

“We’ve recently filled three full-time positions with people who had strong applications,” she said. “The current low unemployment rate poses more of a challenge to our hiring efforts right now.”

Morrison said Ballwin’s response with prospective new hires has been to take a positive approach by emphasizing the city’s reputation as a good place to work. However, she added, “Are there questions in the minds of our current employees [about the merger’s effect]? Yes, there are.”

No one has left the city’s employ, she said. “But I expect there will be more concern collectively down the road.”

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