The City of Ottawa is moving forward with a comprehensive look at how its compensation packages stack up against other municipalities and private-sector employers in the region.

Ottawa city commissioners voted 3-2 Monday to approve a compensation and classification study of city personnel positions, to be conducted by St. Louis-based CBIZ Human Capital Services for $30,250.

The study will take a look at workers’ salaries and benefits to see if they are competitive in the current marketplace, Melissa Fairbanks, the city’s human resources director, said.

“CBIZ will be looking at the whole compensation package,” she said, adding that the city had not conducted a comprehensive study in a decade. “The [industry] recommendation is that you complete this study every five years.”

In addition to a review of compensation, CBIZ will analyze job descriptions to ensure they are in line with the duties being performed and are in compliance with such federal guidelines as the Americans With Disabilities Act, she said.

Fairbanks also reminded commissioners that as part of the contract, CBIZ would provide compensation updates for five years beyond the initial study.

“So this will cover the next six years,” she said.

Citing the introductions of new employees and recognition of staff accomplishments that took place at Monday’s meeting prior to her presentation, Fairbanks said the study would help ensure the city continues to hire and retain a quality workforce.

The city’s current human resources department, which consists of two employees, would not be able to undertake a study of this magnitude in-house, Fairbanks said.

Commissioners Gene Ramsey and Sara Caylor, who both voted against authorizing the study, said their decisions came down to the bottom line.

“The $30,000 would be the equivalent of about a full year’s salary for one employee,” Caylor said.

Ramsey said he had nothing against CBIZ or the city’s staff, but he would like to see that $30,000 spent for sidewalks, streets or playgrounds.

“I’d like to see the money spent in a different way,” he said.

Commissioners Jeff Richards and Linda Reed voted to approve the study.

Richards called the study an investment in the city’s staff.

“We’ve lost a few employees, not many, to other employers in the area,” Richards said, adding that better wages was a factor in some of those cases.

Citing the five years of compensation updates at no additional cost to the city, Richards said, “This would cover the next six years, so I look at it as it’s only costing us $5,000 a year.”

Initially opposed to the study, Reed said, she changed her mind after receiving more information and watching a presentation from CBIZ. She also cited the time lapse since the last study.

“It’s been more than 10 years,” she said.

Mayor Blake Jorgensen broke the tie when he voted to approve the study.

CBIZ representatives said at a recent study session it would take about four months to complete the study.

Fairbanks thanked commissioners for their due diligence regarding the study, referring to previous discussions and a presentation by CBIZ at recent city commission study sessions.

“I realize this is an investment,” she said.

Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at