Mayor Matt Starr

Mount Vernon mayor Matt Starr.

MOUNT VERNON — At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Matt Starr outlined a plan as the city moves to hire a new safety-service director.

Former SSD Rick Dzik resigned effective Sept. 8 to take the position of city manager for Huber Heights, a Dayton suburb.

Starr said the replacement process includes short- and long-term strategies.

Short-term plans involve reassigning Dzik’s previous duties among Law Director Rob Broeren, Auditor Terry Scott, City Engineer Brian Ball, Development Services Director Lacie Blankenhorn, Human Resources Director Denise Neff, Director of Public Works Tom Hinkle, and Starr.

Long-term, Starr suggested revising the safety-service director’s job description.

Referencing the restructuring of public works, public utilities, and the safety departments, Starr said, “Let’s look at the restructuring of the safety-service director position itself.”

“We’ll have to take a look at salary, too,” he said.

Starr wants to fill the position by Election Day, Nov. 8. He plans to have a search committee lead the process rather than hire a search firm.

Extra Compensation

Because they will pick up additional responsibilities, Starr proposed dividing Dzik’s salary between Ball, Blankenhorn, Neff, and Hinkle. That equates to $835.50 additional each pay.

While all council members agreed with the extra compensation, they differed on how much it should be.

“If we’re going to have to raise the [safety-service director’s] salary, should we have some money in reserve?” Councilman Mel Severns asked.

“Maybe we should be looking at amount of responsibility,” Councilwoman Janis Seavolt said.

Council President Bruce Hawkins agreed, pointing out that some of the responsibility will be given to elected officials, “and that can’t be increased.”

Councilman James Mahan said council should trust the mayor and not micro-manage.

“The details certainly can be negotiated,” he said.

Councilman Mike Hillier suggested a lesser amount in case the search takes longer than Nov. 8.

Additionally, he said any proposed salary increase for the position should not be based on the $160,000 Dzik will make at Huber Heights. Hillier said Huber Heights is much larger and less safe than Mount Vernon. The duties are also different.

Responding to Council member Tammy Woods’ question about interviewing candidates if the goal is to restructure the position, Starr acknowledged that is something the committee will have to work through.


In other personnel issues, council members again discussed creating two additional intern positions for the human resources department. 

HR director Neff said the interns will do other HR work in addition to scanning personnel files. She left the time frame open-ended because the work is ongoing.

“To give you a timeline I feel would be misleading,” she said.

Neff agreed with council’s request to have the interns undergo background checks.

Auditor Scott said that while money needs to be transferred among line accounts, Neff has the money in her budget to fund the intern positions.

Council members passed an ordinance creating the positions in its legislative session.

Council also passed two ordinances amending the police and fire bargaining units agreements. The ordinances allow eligible employees to accept money outside of the union contracts.

The money is an incentive to remain with their respective department. Each eligible employee will receive $4,000.

In other legislative action, council members:

–Gave a second reading to a resolution committing to Sustainable 2050, an initiative of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission

–Gave a first reading to legislation authorizing the city to submit an application for infrastructure work on Fairgrounds Road

–Approved the appointment of Annie Ellsworth as Julia Warga’s replacement on the Municipal Planning Commission

–Gave a first reading to legislation authorizing a Request for Proposal to design the new courthouse and police station

–Gave a first reading to an ordinance increasing the salary of elected officials

Streets & Public Buildings

City Engineer Ball told council preliminary plans are ready for the new courthouse and police department. The city will schedule a public meeting to show the plans to the community.

According to Ball, it will take at least two years to design the police station and courthouse “if we don’t want to rush.”

Plans for the new city annex are about nine months behind due to lack of funding. Ball anticipates it will take less than two years to design annex plans.

The projects are on a five-year time line. Ball said the clock started six months ago.

Planning & Zoning

Mayor Starr explained MORPC’s Sustainable 2050 initiative, which he said has to do with roads, utilities, and infrastructure.

He noted that while it is good to have services available, the initiative helps the city ensure residents can access those services.

The initiative has four goals:

–Improve air quality and reduce climate change impacts to protect public health and environment

–Protect and preserve natural resources to support a healthy and resilient region

–Improve the quality life for all residents by creating sustainable and equitable communities

–Promote robust, inclusive and sustainable growth and development

There is no charge for the city to commit to the program and it places no obligations on the city.

“It’s really more of a philosophical approach to how you want to do things,” Starr said.

He noted that the shade tree and utility commissions, engineering department, and the Bee City and sidewalk programs are already doing things that fulfill the initiative’s goals.

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