Bayport to keep number of public works staff higher

Council members disagreed over most pressing needs

City council members agree Bayport should replace the city’s public works supervisor, Mel Horak, when he retires at the end of the year. But a disagreement over the nature and cost of a new hire divided the council Oct. 2.

For the past seven years, the public works department had operated with a single supervisor and two maintenance workers, with the assistance of several seasonal employees, according to city staff. Prior to that, the department had as many as five full-time employees.

Anticipating supervisor Horak’s retirement, the city created the position of public works director and hired Matt Kline at the beginning of 2017.

“The Director was hired to provide experience and advanced skill in all aspects of Public Works and to accomplish tasks that were not being completed due to insufficient staffing and skill levels,” according to city staff reports.

The city planned to have Kline work alongside Horak this year in order to aid a smooth transition.

With Horak’s retirement imminent, city staff say the current workload and upcoming projects justify hiring a replacement public works supervisor. Staff say the supervisor is filling an “important niche” for the city, with responsibilities lying between those of maintenance worker and director.

“In order to meet the desired workload Matt and I want to accomplish, we feel the supervisor position would be most appropriate,” city administrator Adam Bell said.

But Councilmember John Buckley believes a full-time maintenance worker is a more urgent need and would have a starting salary around $20,000 lower.

“The needs right now are a maintenance worker,” Buckley said, adding that his opinion was based on observations and conversations with staff and other public works departments.

But Councilmember Michele Hanson and Mayor Susan St. Ores said they preferred to defer to the judgment of Kline, the department head.

St. Ores said the supervisor position, which is expected to include about 50 percent field work, would give Kline the most flexibility based on the needs of the city throughout the year.

Kline told the council that he actually believes there’s a need for both a supervisor and an additional maintenance worker, but if the city only hires one, the supervisor position would be a better fit.

Buckley said he could support the addition of a supervisor and a maintenance worker, but if the city was hiring only one, it should be a maintenance worker.

The rest of the council seemed open to reassessing the need during next year’s budget cycle to determine if another maintenance worker should be added in addition to the supervisor, bringing the total number of public works employees to five.

In a 4-1 vote with Buckley dissenting, the council approved hiring a public works supervisor. The 2018 preliminary budget includes $66,623 for the supervisor position.

The city hopes to fill the position by the beginning of January.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]