FD public works overhaul is stymied

A reorganization of the Fort Dodge Public Works Department remains stymied as the employees’ union ponders filing a grievance and the City Council rejected a plan to create a new supervisory position to manage the water operations.

City Manager David Fierke recommended that the council approve three measures needed to reorganize the department during its meeting Monday.

”Fundamentally, everyone thought this was the right way to go,” he said.

Acknowledging that many questions remain about how to consolidate the agency from seven divisions to three, Fierke said ”It’s hard to perceive how this is really going to work until you’re in it.”

”I think we can work through this,” he said.

The council, however, took no action on creating some new job titles and the overall reorganization plan. And it rejected, on a 4-3 vote, the creation of the water utility operations manager job, which is needed to comply with Iowa Department of Natural Resources regulations.

The Public Works Department has 46 employees in the sanitation, streets, traffic safety, vehicle maintenance, utilities distribution and water meter divisions.

The proposal from Fierke would create water utility, streets and sanitation, and vehicle maintenance divisions.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources requirement and a switch to new refuse collection trucks that require just one person to operate are fueling the reorganization.

On Monday, the council was asked to eliminate the job titles of assistant street superintendent, assistant sanitation superintendent and assistant utilities distribution superintendent and replace them with the titles of senior maintenance lead workers, maintenance lead workers and utility division lead worker.

Rick Eilander, a representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, objected to the change, claiming it would take seniority from workers.

After several exchanges between Fierke and Eilander that sometimes seemed like contract negotiations, the council tabled any action on the issue.

Councilmen Kim Alstott, Dave Flattery, and Andy Fritz voted in favor of creating the water utility operations manager post, which would pay between $56,500 and $72,200 depending on a person’s experience and qualifications.

Councilmen Dean Hill, Robert ”Barney” Patterson, Mark Taylor, Don Wilson voted no.

The public works overhaul will be on the council’s Aug. 26 agenda.