Volunteers could help a depleted city staff overcome a budget crisis by performing manual tasks, Red Wing city officials say.
The city is organizing an effort to recruit volunteers to help city staff. Volunteers could work on simple jobs, such as pulling weeds, fixing flowerbeds or doing data entry.
City officials are expected to name former Mayor Donna Dummer as Red Wing's lead volunteer coordinator at the City Council's June 22 meeting.
Dummer could not be reached for comment.
The council has struggled in recent months to slash its budget, which will be necessary if Gov. Pawlenty makes steep cuts in the state aid that goes to cities.
Meanwhile, council member Carol Duff has been pushing for a strong volunteer program.
"I'd like to see people step forward and say, 'I can help.'" Duff said. "It will make us more of a community."
She also noted there are a number of individuals and groups that already donate their time to help the city.
Much of the volunteers' work will be public works-related tasks.
Public Works Director Rick Moskwa pointed out, "There will be certain things public volunteers won't be able to do." He said the city must safeguard itself.
For example, volunteers won't be able to operate chain saws, Moskwa said. In fact, there is little city equipment they will be able to use.
Employee Service Director Roger Seymour is currently hammering out a new city policy on volunteers.
"We've always had a volunteer program to some extent," Seymour said. But if the city is going to allow for an intensified volunteer effort by the public, Seymour says Red Wing will have to make sure volunteers aren't put in harm's way -- and that the city is not left open to a lawsuit.
"We're looking to see about what people can and can't do," he said. For instance, anyone given access to money or city data, or who would interact with children, would need to undergo a background check.