Council OK’s engineer post on split vote

A divided Fort Dodge City Council on Monday decided to create another position on the city staff for a civil engineer to work with City Engineer Chad Schaeffer.

The new employee would replace Scott Meinders, who resigned in January to become the county engineer in Winnebago County. But unlike Meinders, who was a recent college graduate when he joined the city staff, the potential new employee would be a licensed professional engineer with some experience, according to the job description approved on a 4-3 vote Monday.

The salary for the position would be about $75,000. That’s a poor use of city funds, in the opinion of some council members.

”I think we need to look closer at our budget and keep costs down,” said Councilman Mark Taylor.

Councilman Don Wilson, who participated in the meeting by telephone, said he was not happy that the council was creating more positions while ”beating down” members of the sanitation crew in the Public Works Department. He didn’t explain what he meant by ”beating down” those workers, and Mayor Matt Bemrich replied to him by saying ”I disagree with everything you just said.”

In addition to the engineering department, Schaeffer also oversees the Business Affairs and Community Growth Department. Taylor recommended hiring a new head for that department and releasing Scheaffer from those duties.

Wilson recommended privatizing the engineering operation.

Bemrich said keeping Schaeffer’s post unchanged and hiring an engineer to help him will produce ”better service for less money.”

City Manager David Fierke said he believes his instructions from the council are to do as much engineering work in-house as possible.

In response to an question from Councilman Dean Hill, Schaeffer said he could not guarantee that more engineering work could be done in-house with the addition of a second engineer.

”We are replacing one person with one person,” he said.

He said the engineering workload consists of ”30-some projects.”

”We have to have two people to oversee $30 million worth of construction at the ag park alone,” he said. ”I don’t know how much more you can expect from two people.”

He said he is still heavily involved in projects for which outside engineering firms are hired.

”We don’t just ship them out the door and then magically they come back in the door to be bid out,” he said of those projects.

Schaeffer added that he thinks the engineering workload will only increase.

Councilmen Kim Alstott, Dave Flattery, Andy Fritz and Robert ”Barney” Patterson voted to create the new position. Hill, Taylor and Wilson voted against it.

No one has been hired for the position yet.