City council hears public works report

During its 2013 organizational meeting, the New Prague City Council left tthe position of Public Works Director vacant.

Dennis Seurer retired from the position on October 31, 2012. The council and the New Prague Utilities Commission had S.E.H. Inc. do a public works organizational review report, which was presented at the meeting. John Rodeberg of S.E.H. Inc. presented the report to the council. Also present were Utilities Commission President Chuck Wann and member Paul Busch.

Rodeberg explained that they did research, conducted surveys and interviews with city staff, the council and commission members. He noted among city utilities staff there were many who liked working in the community. City employees appreciated being able to work together. A feeling of cooperation and coordination was promoted, which also led to efficiency.

While they worked with a minimal staff, which helped with cooperation, the report stated it would be difficult to maintain that as the city grows. There were also issues such as overtime and on-call policies that would have to be addressed.

Rodeberg said they found that Seurer was stretched too thin over the job during the last several years, and he believed it would be impractical and unfeasible to continue that.

S.E.H. Inc. also looked at several cities ranging in population from 6,000 to 14,000. They found that most have a separate directors for Public Works and Public Utilities, except for New Prague, Fairmont, St. Peter and Kasson.

Rodeberg suggested three alternatives, which included hiring a new Public Works Director to replace Seurer. While this set up has worked, he said he would not recommended it as it may be difficult to be competitive and draw qualified candidates from the outside.

The second alternative was to promote Electric Operations Supervisor Bruce Reimers and Maintenance Supervisor Glen Sticha to management level positions. While viable, it would require patience and support asthe two developed the skill sets to address their new responsibilities.

The third alternative was a hybrid of the two - hiring a PWD and having Reimers and Sticha take on management positions. The PWD or Public Services Director would handle the overall management and administration while Reimers and Sticha would take care of the daily operations. He believed this would have the best chance of success.

Johnson suggested that since there were three Utilities Commission members absent they would want their opinions before they proceed.

It was the consensus of the council to have the report presented to the commission at its Tuesday, Jan. 22, meeting. After that a workshop would be set up between the council and the commission to decide on how to proceed.