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Four-person staffing shakeup expected as Alerus Center management shifts

Staffing changes are coming to four positions at Grand Forks' Alerus Center as it transitions from direct, public operation to private management working on contract.

The Alerus Center in Grand Forks. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)
Alerus Center Building Mug

Staffing changes are coming to four positions at Grand Forks’ Alerus Center as it transitions from direct, public operation to private management working on contract.

The Philadelphia-based firm Spectra is expected to assume operations of the Alerus Center from the city by July 9, following contract negotiations that wrapped up June 16. As a result, the employees at the center are being released from city employment, and it’s entirely up to Spectra who joins their new staff.

Four full-time positions, one of them a contracted position, will be either eliminated or staffed with a new employee by Spectra, according to Julie Rygg, chairwoman of the city’s Events Center Commission.

  • A human resources director position will be merged into another staff position because of the existing human resources support Spectra can provide.
  • An operations manager role will be combined with a vacant assistant director role and filled with a current Spectra employee.
  • A convention and booking sales director will be replaced with a new hire.
  • A contracted corporate sales position will become a directly employed position under Spectra -- not the Alerus Center. Rygg said the current contract-holder is not expected to be re-hired.

Tim Murphy, a regional vice president with Spectra who helped conclude the contract, referred questions to an official with the company’s corporate communications team who declined comment.
Rygg said employees who will not receive offers from Spectra were informed of the decision on Tuesday. Though the decision was ultimately Spectra’s, Rygg said the the team of local leaders who negotiated the firm’s new contract supported the choices.

"They did discuss it with us, and we did decide that this was the best decision for the Alerus Center,” she said. She estimated the number of part-time employees at more than 200, and said she expects “Spectra will be on-boarding all those employees.”

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Tangee Bouvette, a human resources official with the city, said that the three directly employed workers were part of a group of 21 full-time employees who were set to be released from city employment as a result of the management change. Of that group, 13 were not expected to keep employer contributions to their pension plans as of last week, amounting to lost savings of $45,000. While all the full-time employees would receive payouts for unused vacation time, only those with five or more years of service were expected to be paid half of their unused sick time.

The contracted worker, Bouvette said, was one of two such employees. The other is a food and dining official.

Rygg, who had previously said she wished to avoid jeopardizing employee benefits and compensation, defended the moves made in recent weeks. Employees retained by Spectra are not seeing their salaries cut, and the company has a generous benefits package, she said.

This week’s announcement was perhaps the largest unanswered staffing question raised by the management shift. Rygg acknowledged that the center is undergoing a “difficult time,” but expressed optimism for the new management group.

“It's also a very positive time for the Alerus Center,” she said. “We're looking forward to what spectra will bring to the venue."

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