FD Council approves new consolidated agency

A new department with diverse responsibilities for designing infrastructure projects, business retention and zoning matters was created by the Fort Dodge City Council Monday night.

On a series of split votes, the council established the Department of Engineering, Business Affairs and Community Growth and named Chad Schaeffer, formerly the city engineer, to lead it.

Schaeffer made $95,000 as city engineer. His new salary is $100,375.65.

Dennis Plautz, the former head of the department of business affairs and community growth, made $107,000 in his last year with the city, according to Mayor Matt Bemrich.

”The way I look at this we’re ahead from when we had two full-time department heads,” he said.

”If we’re going to ask them to do more and perform more, we need to pay them more,” Bemrich added.

Councilman Mark Taylor repeatedly objected to the pay raise that was awarded in connection with creating the new department.

”We can’t afford to keep raising pay grades around here,” he said

”If you don’t have money to give pay raises you don’t give pay raises,” he added.

Taylor objected to the fact that the city government is still paying the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance $120,000 a year to do economic development, while maintaining a city department that also has some economic development roles.

According to Taylor, more than just a salary increase is involved. He said that with the increased salary, the city will have to contribute more to Schaeffer’s pension.

City Manager David Fierke said the money for the salary increase will come from the tax increment financing account.

Jeff Nemmers, the city clerk and finance director, said $75,000 is budgeted from that account now. He said 65 percent of that amount is allocated already.

In a series of 6-1 votes with Taylor casting the lone dissenting vote, the council:

  • Established the position of director of engineering, business affairs and community growth.
  • Approved Schaeffer’s appointment to the new director’s position.
  • Converted the current business affairs specialist position in the department to an economic development specialist position.

That post is held by Dawn Larsen, who meets regularly with local business leaders to see what the local government can do to help ensure that they stay in the city. Fierke said her role was originally that of an assistant to the department head, but she will now be required to make more independent decisions.

The arrangement approved Monday night make formal a setup that has existed since Plautz resigned in March 2012 to become the chief executive officer of the growth Alliance. Schaeffer has overseen both his engineering office and the Department of Business Affairs and Community Growth since then.