Mount Vernon City Hall

MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon City Council postponed indefinitely a proposal to formally restructure the city's supervisory structure, opting instead to operate short-term under a temporary reorganizational format.

Safety-service Director Richard Dzik proposed the restructure, saying that it is the “right time to have this discussion” with the upcoming retirement of Dave Carpenter, superintendent of the public buildings and lands, parks, and cemetery departments. The restructure calls for creating a Director of Public Works position, three assistant directors, and a human resources manager.

In recommending postponement of the proposal, Councilmember Samantha Scoles, chair of the Employee and Community Relations Committee, said the city does not have a long-term plan for personnel.

“I am interested in coming up with a strategic plan for personnel to prioritize our personnel,” she said.

For the next few months, Tom Hinkle, streets superintendent, will serve as supervisor over all of the city departments. Dzik, who supported the postponement, said this arrangement “allows us to take somebody qualified for the Director of Public Works and get a feel for the landscape.” It also provides an opportunity to share resources across departments and evaluate the efficiency of a reorganization.

Council approved Dzik's request to change a part-time clerk position to full time to help offset Hinkle's added administrative duties. Dzik also suggested Hinkle be compensated at $70,000 a year in light of his extra duties. The approximate $100,000 saved through Carpenter's retirement will cover the added compensation for both positions.

Samantha Scoles 1 col

Councilmember Samantha Scoles

In previous discussions about the human resources manager position, council members noted the position is needed, but they were reluctant to commit funding in light of the city's current financial setback. Scoles reiterated the need for the position, saying it is “part of the bigger conversation picture we need to have,” but added that she preferred to see the HR position as separate legislation from the restructuring.

Scoles anticipates operating under the temporary restructure for three to six months while the city identifies a strategic plan for personnel.

In a financial update, Auditor Terry Scott said that through June 22, city revenue is down $1.21 million compared to his January estimate. While tax withholdings are still strong, corporate revenue is down, as are local government funds.

“Purchase power is not strong, and consumer confidence is quite frail,” he said, adding that a potential future recession could last 12 months.

The city received $266,829 through the federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) to help offset the cost of managing the COVID pandemic. Scott said the city has been “fronting the money” for activities such as fogging of city buildings, sanitation of public restrooms in the parks, personal protective equipment, and Plexiglas barriers to aid in social distancing.

Council gave a second reading to legislation designating the city as Bee City USA Affiliate. As an affiliate, the city will work to create sustainable habitats for bees, decrease use of harmful pesticides and herbicides through an integrated pest management program that is friendly to bees and other pollinators, and create a committee to advocate for pollinators and educate the community about friendly herbicides and pesticides. The committee will raise the annual $200 renewal fee.

“This legislation gives the committee authority to create plans. It does not give it the authority to enforce whatever plans they create,” said Law Director Rob Broeren.

In other business, council:

  • Approved the appointment of William Smith and Tonya Boucher as regular members and Kate Aryanata as alternate member to the Zoning Board of Appeals
  • Approved the appointment of Pam Grassbaugh to the Library Board of Trustees
  • Authorized the safety-service director to enter into contract with Black Cat Sealing to crack seal Coshocton Avenue. Following its partnership paving program of Coshocton Avenue two years ago, the Ohio Department of Transportation requires the city to maintain the road in order to qualify for the next ODOT paving grant. The approximate $48,000 cost for sealing will come from the Coshocton Avenue TIF District (Tax Increment Financing).
  • Gave a first reading to legislation amending the city code relating to impounding vehicles

Council also heard suggestions from Christina Hambleton about local police reform. Her concerns include the use of profiling and holding officers accountable when abuse occurs.

Health Commissioner Julie Miller updated council on Knox Public Health activities relating to COVID. In Monday's drive-through testing in Centerburg, 175 individuals — some coming from as far away as Pickerington — were tested. She said KPH is researching why Knox County has had a low count of COVID cases and attributes it to local residents observing the stay-at-home order.

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