Public works overhaul tabled

A new position has been added to the Fort Dodge Public Works department – but further reorganization of the department was tabled Monday.

The Fort Dodge City Council voted to create the position of Water Utility Distribution Superintendent, but took no action on other resolutions regarding the creation and removal of other positions, or on a reorganized structure for the department.

The new management position is needed because the city will soon begin pumping 5 million gallons of water a day to serve the existing community and the ag-industrial park called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation west of the city. Once that happens, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will require the city to have someone overseeing the water distribution system who has a high level of training and certification, according to City Manager David Fierke.

He said that person will have to have what the DNR calls a Grade 4 license.

Creating this position was critical, Fierke said.

“I do feel it’s very important that we get moving on that,” he said. “We’ll become a 5 million gallon facility, it looks like the latter part of October. That’s pretty quick – we’re in non-compliance starting October 2013. We’re going to have to advertise and move pretty quick on a selection or hire.”

An internal hire is possible, he said, since two employees in the department have that license.

That motion passed 4-3. Council members Mark Taylor, Don Wilson and Dean Hill voted no, and Andy Fritz, Dave Flattery, Robert “Barney” Patterson and Kim Alstott voted yes.

The motion had failed at the council meeting Aug. 12, with Patterson voting no at that time.

Since then, Fierke said he changed his proposal. Before, he had called for eliminating a position, maintenance worker 3, while creating this manager position.

“What I did out of your action is, I took that out of there. Now it’s a new position created, and we’re not eliminating anything,” Fierke said. “That’s a net addition of one, which I was trying to avoid.”

The old position will remain on the books, but will not be filled at the moment, he said.

“I’ll let you know when and if there’s an opportunity to fill it. That way it’s not eliminated from the books, we’re not officially losing a position out of the union; but I don’t want to stand here and tell you we ought to fill it because we’re really not budgeted for it right now,” he said.

Other resolutions involved a restructuring of the Public Works department, removing some positions and creating others.

The 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.

Fierke said he had met with city workers’ representatives on Thursday and had made good progress. However, questions still remained.

At an hourlong workshop before the regular council session, city workers raised several concerns.

In particular, they brought up questions of senority and how vacant positions would be filled under the new plan. They also wondered how workers would be redistributed in the new divisions.

The council tabled these resolutions to give more time to work out the particulars. Fierke said the workers will discuss the initial draft of the memorandum of understanding on Wednesday.