By PETER HUSSMANN
Newton City Administrator Bob Knabel's plans for personnel changes in city operations that come with a $232,000 price tag were met with some hesitancy by a subcommittee of the Newton City Council on Monday.
Knabel made the recommendations to the council's three-member Employee Relations Committee that address his findings of city operations following his 90-day review. His findings indicated that several areas of city operations need to be addressed, including administrative services, economic development information technology and nuisance ordinance compliance.
In his proposals, Knabel recommended that positions have more directed responsibilities.
First, Knabel recommends the creation of a Director of Finance position that would be responsible for the oversight of all of the city's financial affairs. The position of Director of Administrative Services, which currently handles finances for the city, as well as serving as city clerk, and has oversight over information technology and human resources, would be eliminated. Candi Van Zee currently holds the position.
Knabel also proposed the creation of an executive assistant/city clerk position that would serve as city clerk and be the keeper of all city records. The person in the position would also assist the city administrator.
In discussing financing for the two positions, Knabel placed an $84,500 salary for the director of finance post (not including benefits) and a $59,800 salary for the executive assistant/city clerk position. He suggested that Van Zee, who is currently working at a salary of $93,500, could be considered for the position.
Knabel also suggested that Community Development Director Bryan Friedman be moved into a newly created Assistant City Administrator position with the primary responsibilities of economic development efforts on behalf of the city. Friedman, who served as acting city administrator during the council's recent search for a new administrator that resulted in Knabel's hiring, would be removed from the community development responsibilities and be moved into an office at City Hall. The proposal calls for a $2,400 salary increase to $95,700, as well as a $5,000 marketing budget for economic development efforts.
Friedman would also have oversight over a new Information Technology position within the city at a proposed salary of $52,000. The current payroll, personnel assistant and IT lead, Katrina Davis, would relinquish those duties to the new IT employee and focus efforts within human resources. The current part-time administrative assistant position held by Cheryl Salyers would move to full-time. She would assist Davis with the daily processing of human resources functions. Moving to full-time would increase her $28,800 salary by $7,800.
With Friedman moving out of his position in the Community Development Department, current city planner Erin Chambers would be promoted to the Director of Community Development, under the proposal. The planner position would remain vacant. Her current salary of $67,800 would increase by $7,800.
Finally, Knabel suggests that due to the city's fragmented responsibility chain for nuisance ordinance compliance, a nuisance enforcement officer position be created at a salary of $40,000. The employee would assume responsibility for all code compliance issues in regards to nuisances. The current building inspector, Mel Duncan, would deal only with structural issues of buildings.
Knabel suggested that financing for the new positions and position changes could come from a variety of sources, including the $132,000 interest payment for the TPI project that expires in 2013, the $35,000 in annual interst savings that are seen from the recent bond refinancing and the $63,000 in ambulance revenues over budgeted projections. The transitions are being proposed to start this fall with some of the new hires not being made until after the first of the year.
The three-member council committee, comprised of Mike Hansen, Noreen Otto and Jeff Price, offered several questions concerning the city administrator's proposals.
Hansen, who has announced his attention to seek Chaz Allen's position as mayor after he steps down later this summer, voiced concern about the creation of the nuisance position noting that the council previously established a split building inspection/nuisance position, though, he said, it appears that the nuisance part of the position has not been given high priority, even at a time when building activity in the community is quite low.
Hansen suggested that building inspections might be able to be contracted to a private firm. He also suggested the city administrator look at contracting the Information Technology position. He said that while he was not opposed to the creation of the assistant city administrator position, he would be opposed to the need for a community development director, as well.
Otto questioned the use of fire department revenues to help finance the staffing changes. It was also suggested that the city investigate salary ranges other cities in Iowa have who have a director of finance.
"I don't have enough information to make a recommendation to the council," Hansen said in suggesting Knabel delve into the questions raised before the subcommittee meets again next week.