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City discusses creating public works department

Four hours of Marietta City Council committee meetings Thursday covered new administration proposals for staffing and vehicles, technology needs for the water and wastewater plants, the property plights of two residents, federal funding management and asset management of a city-owned building in addition to the discussion over the River City Farmers Market.

The market’s nonprofit board has proposed to bring its more than 2,000-body Saturday morning foot traffic downtown from the Washington County Fairgrounds. A full story on the proposal appeared in the Friday edition of the Times.

Labor reorganization

Mayor Josh Schlicher and Assistant Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz shared a proposal with council to combine the streets, public facilities, utility maintenance and equipment maintenance departments into a single public works department Thursday.

Schlicher explained that the plan entails no reduction of staff or pay for current employees but added layers of management between each working foreman and the mayor’s office.

If approved by council, a new director of public works would report directly to Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz.

Beneath that public works director it is proposed to have a public works superintendent, under which four foreman positions would remain with generic job descriptions to allow for shifting of labor due to “daily, monthly, seasonally and annual” project needs and maintenance.

The only managerial position not changing, Skinner noted, was the equipment maintenance manager position.

Water Superintendent Jeff Kephart asked how the proposal would impact both the cost allocation impacts to the two city enterprise funds (water and wastewater) which utilize members of the equipment and utility maintenance labor force for both scheduled and emergency responses to maintain plant flows and treatment.

Skinner noted that direct emergency would still receive top priority, though the chain of command for dispatching work would have added layers, as proposed.

City Auditor Sherri Hess said that the rearrangement of labor would simply be an accounting change to charging city funds based on hours of work covered.

“You would not be charged twice,” she summarized.

The mayor indicated a preference to begin implementation between September and October if introduced for formal legislation before the voting body in August.

Council members present also agreed to move forward on additional seasonal labor hires through the Washington County Job and Family Services program, adding five more positions to the current four the city is utilizing within public facilities and the city harbor.

The added positions offer employment at not cost to city coffers to add labor to the streets and public facilities departments.

The legislative body is expected to introduce and vote on the additional positions on Thursday.

Telemetry

The legislators also heard the mechanics of a proposal to upgrade outdated monitoring systems affecting both water and wastewater treatment and labor efficiency within the city.

Kephart and Wastewater Superintendent Steve Elliott both noted that the unified system approach would allow for timely decisions and proactive adjustments when an aged line or pump station fails or malfunctions.

Between the two departments (33 sites for installation of new equipment, licensing and design) it was estimated Thursday to cost the city enterprise funds a total of $344,662, not including a monthly fee after completion for each radio, which was explained to work like a cellphone bill.

Community Development Block Grant

With a combined Finance and Employee Relations discussion Thursday the legislators unanimously approved a shift in financial burden onto federal funds for a current support position within the city development office.

The adjustment removes the 10 percent of the development clerk’s salary coverage from the city’s Marehab fund.

“Marehab has removed all of that (grant) money so we will need to update the current ordinance to reflect that 100 percent community development change,” said Employee Relations Chairwoman Cassidi Shoaf.

Hess confirmed that the 100 percent coverage by the federal grant would stay in compliance with work performed by Lisa Forshey in the position, which she said is solely administering the federal grant programs.

Council members present, though the Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee was not called to order at the time, also blessed the penning of legislation to officially amend the 2020 CDBG budget due to an increase in $10,049 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Development Director Mike Gulliver noted that the increase is solely dedicated toward the emergency demolition of 615-619 Putnam St. at the corner of Putnam and Seventh streets which has been in danger of collapse onto sewer and water mains below for more than five years. Council authorized at its June 18 regular business meeting to tear the building down without the requirement of a full bidding process.

Gulliver did not, however, have an answer for when the COVID stimulus CDBG dollars are expected to arrive in city coffers, to be added in similar fashion via legislative amendment to the 2019 CDBG budget.

Spending of that additional $242,989 and a requested itemized budget has still not been provided to the Times nor council as requested in April and May committee meetings.

Other business:

Council also heard concerns by the administration over the state of the historic lock house behind the Armory which faces both internal and external structural and electrical issues.

While the mayor’s administration proposed two options to address the concerns– fix or sell–Councilwoman Susan Boyer noted the two are not council’s only options nor what (given present city finances and control of the riverbank) she would support.

She said a third option would be to tear down the structure, place a placard noting the past history of the location and return the city-owned space to productive use.

Such uses could include expansion of parking behind the Armory, or additional green space.

The seated legislators also heard the proposal of Enterprise to manage a leased system of the city’s vehicles Thursday and plans to further discuss the base proposal on July 13.

And while in Streets Committee Thursday Dawn Hewitt was guided to make her proposal for a second parking strip in city right of way to the city tree commission in July, while Ann Jeffers was told that she is not required to fix a slip on her Hadley Lane property below the former Channel Lane slip.

Marietta City Council next meets Thursday at 7:30 p.m. for its regular business meeting in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

If you go:

– Marietta City Council next meets on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

– The meeting is a formal business meeting, to be held in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St.

– Any resident, business owner or other member of the public is allowed to speak during the “call on visitors” section of the meeting and public agendas are provided on-site.

– Public comments require the person speaking to state their name and address for the record and to keep comments within three minutes.

– The time allotted does not allow, in the formal meeting, for question-and-answer or further discussion.

– The speaking time affords the public opportunity to both request committee meetings for further discussion and for voice in support or against presented legislation, city permit requests or other actions by the city administration.

– Statements emailed to Council Clerk Jennifer Starkey by 4 p.m. on Wednesday would also be read into the record during this time.

– Starkey may be reached at JenniferStarkey@mariettaoh.net.

Source: Marietta City Council.

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