The City of Saline will proceed with plans to use the retirement of longtime superintendent and engineer Gary Roubal as a jumping off point for restructuring.
In April, city council reviewed the results of an organization study conducted by Novak Group. Among other things, the Novak Group recommended the city create an assistant city manager position, a deputy department of public works director position, and four other new jobs.
Roubal, employed by the city since 1987, is retiring in July.
After an hour-long work session before Monday’s regular meeting, and a 45-minute discussion during the meeting, city council directed city staff to move forward with a plan – though council was by no means unanimous on the matter.
Roubal’s job will be split between two jobs.
A new assistant city manager/community development director position will be hired – likely within the next four to six months. Among other things, the person in this role will manage assessing, permitting, code enforcement, and business attraction and retention.
DPW Director Jeff Fordice will assume many of Roubal’s engineering duties. A new assistant DPW director will assist Fordice in managing DPW activities.
After some debate, council also determined the city does not yet have the budget to have a 40-hour per work code enforcement officer. Instead, the city will look at hiring a code enforcement officer who helps with assessing tasks. On a related note, the city learned it was likely to soon lose assessor Bob Brazeau.
Not everyone on council was in agreement with the plan outlined by City Manager Todd Campbell. Councillor Janet Dillon once again spoke of the need to hire a human resources manager – a key recommendation in the Novak study.
“I whole heartedly believe the city needs an HR person. I’ve been saying this for years,” Dillon said.
Councillor Jack Ceo said he worked in city government in Ann Arbor and Saline without a human resources director.
“I don’t see the crying need for a human resources director. What I do see is Mr. Roubal is leaving and this presents us with an opportunity that needs to be addressed right at this moment,” Ceo said.
Councillors Dean Girbach and Christen Mitchell both noted a human resources department might have helped the city deal with police department issues that boiled into controversies covered in the news media.
With the city about to embark on key hiring and reorganization, a human resources manager might increase efficiency and save money for the city, Mitchell said.
Councillor Linda TerHaar agreed with Ceo’s assessment, and said while Novak’s study placed emphasis on the need for human resources management, that recommendation was trumped by Roubal’s pending retirement.
“The consultant’s report reads like a text book. We have real life to deal with. We have a retirement coming and circumstances that will change our priorities. I believe the most urgent thing to do is take care of this change caused by Mr. Roubal’s retirement,” TerHaar said.
Dillon also questioned the plan to move Fordice into the new engineering/DPW director’s job with entertaining the idea of opening the position to the public.
“Mr. Roubal is retiring in 30 days. Are we expecting to hire a deputy DPW director in 30 days? How will Mr. Fordice do the current job, which is he is overwhelmed with, and do the job of the engineer?” Dillon asked.
She recommended outsourcing engineering work until the city figures out who’s best qualified for the positions and how these positions will be funded.
TerHaar said she was against the idea of farming out engineering work, noting city residents were opposed to the idea of farming out police dispatch services several years ago.
Mayor Brian Marl said he was leery of creating new positions in city government, fearing a potential slowing of the economy that might require the city to cut positions it only recently added. He said, however, that he would support the creation of a positions when they can be used to improve existing services.