City hires new consultants

Decision raises concerns by public
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The city entered into three professional services agreements Tuesday to fill positions in the development services and public services departments. The unanimous decision was made during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, after discussion by city staff, City Council and the public. Consultants will fill positions of a public services director and positions within the development services department for engineering services, construction management and inspection services. Bennett Engineering will provide the engineering services and Interwest Consulting Group will provide construction services. The interim public works director would be on contract until Dec. 31, 2010 for “an amount not to exceed $60,000,” according to a staff report for the resolution. Interwest Consulting Group will provide those services. Terry Rodrigue, who served as the city’s interim public services director since March 2009, is the CEO of Interwest, according to Estep. “He’s no longer able to do that but did have the option to bring someone in who could fill that position,” Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep said. The new interim public services director will be Mark Miller, who will start Sept. 29. The contract for the professional engineering will cost the city up to $97,500, according to the staff report, and the contract for construction management and inspection services is also for $97,500. When discussing the need to hire an interim public services director, Estep talked about how the city has decided to wait to hire staff for new positions until California Public Employee Retirement System, or CalPERS, rates are adjusted for city employees. “We did recruitment as an in-house position and were right at the point where we were ready to hire that permanent director, when our budget issues and PERS benefit issues in particular was highlighted,” Estep said. “The City Council gave direction not to hire in-house until we are able to lower the two-tiered benefits.” The city is looking to change the CalPERS rate from 2.7 percent at age 55 to 2 percent at age 60, according to Estep. According to previous News Messenger reports, miscellaneous city employees, which are employees not working in public safety, are eligible to receive a pension of 2.7 percent at age 55 as long as they meet certain requirements. Estep said the city is hoping to have the PERS rate for new employees adjusted by Dec. 31. The city is planning to bring the interim public services director on as a regular employee after CalPERS rates are adjusted, according to Estep. Before the resolution to enter into a contract with a new public services director, there was a public hearing. Resident Richard MacKirdy suggested the city draw back the retirement age to 65, saying that a “normal retirement age of 60 is almost unheard of” in the private sector. MacKirdy said that he hasn’t seen a bidding process for the position and noted a possible “trend” he sees within the city. “If I recall, we’ve lost a police chief, I think we lost the HR director and I think we lost someone in public works,” MacKirdy said. “We’ve lost a bunch of our top managers and, we as citizens, I don’t think have been given an idea as to why some of the most valuable employees have lost their jobs.” After the meeting, MacKirdy said he “would have liked to have seen the city go out to bid” for the position. “I don’t think they should take the first person off the top without going out for bid,” MacKirdy said. City Council candidate Stan Nader said that he “had difficulty correlating the numbers on the front page to the chart on the second page” for the proposed salary for the interim public works director, which would be for three months. The $66,000 reported on the front page of the staff report “is based on actual hours expected to be spent at the city of Lincoln until Dec. 31” without vacation time and sick time, according to Estep. Councilwoman Linda Stackpoole, who is on the city’s personnel committee along with Councilman Paul Joiner, said she and Joiner “agree on one thing.” “We would really prefer to hire the person in-house and make them a full-time public services director. The council made a decision until we got the second-tier retirement benefit program in place, we would not fill any vacated position,” Stackpoole said. “This is a lot of money, we’re aware of that, more than we would pay him if he was full-time with us. This is the person we want to bring on board, we have talked with this person, and recognized he would transition into full-time employment with us, and has agreed to go to 2 percent at 60, and we better have that amendment done by December.”