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City looks to fill new position
MONROE - After almost three years without a public works director, Monroe's Salary and Personnel Committee began recreating the position, while filling permanent and temporary positions for its water and wastewater utilities Monday, Sept. 16.

After firing the director of utilities, Alan Eckstein, last week, the committee opted to begin the hiring process for a director of public works, who would coordinate the work of all public works departments, including streets and sanitation, engineering, and parks, as well as the water and wastewater utilities.

City Administrator Phil Rath said having a director of public works - "someone with overall knowledge of how things work together" - would be "better for the city in the long-term."

A DPW would give additional assistance to the directors and supervisors of the various departments and would also give Rath just one person to go to for information, Rath added.

Kelly Finkenbinder was the last director of public works for the city. He retired Feb. 2, 2011, after more than 30 years with the city's public works, beginning as a laborer on the garbage trucks. He became the DPW in 2003. Rath had just been hired in January 2011; he and the public works department heads assumed the duties of the DPW's position.

In the city's compensation chart, a director of public works position is set to receive a beginning annual salary of between $68,000 and $70,000. Rath noted that the salary is about only about $4,000 more than a utilities director.

Some members of the committee agreed with Rath that the extra salary would be worth the added value of the position.

Committee members and Rath foresee possibly hiring a supervisor from the current ranks of treatment plant employees to oversee the daily operations, and they did not believe the construction of the treatment plant upgrades needed a full-time director on site. Finding a treatment plant supervisor is expected to be taken up at the next Salary and Personnel Committee, which has not been scheduled.

Rath said the city is better off now than it was just a couple years ago, with new technology in place and with a better telephone system, computer service and electronic files, to provide a DPW with a base office and satellite offices at department facilities.

Rath said he hopes to have a DPW hired in two to four months, and Brooke Bauman, committee chairman, said the committee would like to have input during the hiring process.

In the meantime, without a treatment plant director, the committee recommended the council to temporarily raise the salary of the lead operator by $3.50 per hour, while he is taking on some director responsibilities. The recommendation will need the approval of the labor union, which will be notified with a memorandum of understanding.

The committee also chose to refill a vacant water operator position, while a new Utility II position, which can work in both water and wastewater, is being developed. The water and wastewater departments were structurally merged in 2012, to share employees and equipment, although their financial accounts remain separate. Their facilities will merge when offices at the treatment plant site are completed.