Thursday, August 23, 2007

City May Merge Two Key Positions

At $80 an hour, McCombs serving as interim head of both Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments as staff investigates making change permanent

By Nao Braverman
When Ojai’s Public Works director Doug Breeze and Recreation Department director Carol Belser simultaneously handed their resignations in to the city in May, city staff scrambled to find a temporary replacement.
Temporary, because, as city manager Jere Kersnar announced at a June 12 City Council meeting, city staff was considering combining the two positions and possibly reallocating their various responsibilities.
Ed McCombs, former city manager of Ventura and a prior interim director for Ojai’s Public Works department before Breeze was hired, agreed to serve as an interim director of both the Recreation Department and Public Works Department. In addition to the two temporary directorships, he also agreed to take note of both departments’ full operations to help city staff determine how they could restructure the departments to be more efficient and cost effective.
City staff had been investigating the possibility of hiring one department head to oversee both Recreation and Public Works and adding a managing supervisor to each department, said Mayor Carol Smith.
McCombs said that the decision to restructure was partly to address the city’s financial troubles over the past couple of years. Though Ojai is clearly moving in a financially positive direction, staff is still looking for ways to be more efficient, and save funds, he said.
The total city cost for a Public Works director was $161,355 including salary and benefits last year and $134,808 for Recreation Department director, said Kersnar. McCombs is currently getting paid $80 per hour for an approximately 36 hour work week to fill in those positions and help jump start a recruitment plan for the city. That would equal $149,760 over the course of a year.
Another consideration for restructuring the two departments is to align the city with current administrative changes in other cities and ways that administrators are being trained, said Mayor Carol Smith.
“Nowadays younger administrators are trained to multitask and take on different responsibilities,” she said.
Jayden Morrison, the recreation supervisor, said he is not sure which way the Recreation Department is headed but is waiting to hear from city staff.
Though the Recreation and Public Works departments serve entirely different functions they also overlap in many areas, said Councilman Joe DeVito. One example would be the parks and Recreation Department facilities which are all maintained by Public Works, he explained.
Kernsar said that staff was still evaluating the positions, and that there is no specific deadline or timetable for hiring a new director or directors.
How the departments would be restructured, exactly, had also not yet been determined, he said.
McCombs said he expects to come up with a recruitment program for the city in about a week.
Smith and DeVito said they expect to see something on the agenda related to the hirings in an upcoming council meeting.

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