MOUNT VERNON — Over the past several months, Mount Vernon City Council has discussed establishing three new personnel positions: another assistant law director, a human resources director, and a community advocacy director.
In June, Councilmember Samantha Scoles, chair of the Employee and Community Relations Committee, asked the administration to develop a strategic plan for personnel. In response, the administration is leaning toward a second assistant law director as the top priority.
Speaking in a committee meeting on Monday evening, Safety-service Director Richard Dzik said that the HR position is a huge priority, but that with he and Auditor Terry Scott splitting the work, they can carry the load.
“We are willing to postpone (the HR position) for a while,” he said.
Of the community advocate, Dzik said, “We are passionate about it.”
“It's something we see for the future for providing services,” he said, adding that Mayor Matt Starr is working to find outside funding for the position.
In prioritizing personnel, Dzik said the administration looked at the needs of city departments. That led to the second assistant law director position rising to the top of the list.
“The engineering department is overworked,” Dzik said. “It leans heavily on legal advisement. The law director position will relieve the heavy burden on engineering.”
“We're making moves to protect and support the front-line people first,” added Starr. “The engineering department needs help and someone who can spearhead zoning.”
City Engineer Brian Ball said there are three projects on hold because of the need for legal help.
“We've attempted to hire local counsel to do this work, but because of the real estate market, they don't have the time to do it either,” he said, adding that if Columbus counsel is used, it will be much more costly.
The second assistant law director position has a base salary of $50,000, with an additional $33,000 in benefits. Funding could come from several sources: through the proposed restructuring of city departments, from the money the city has saved by using only 40% of appropriations through August, and from some of the money the city would otherwise spend on outside counsel.
Responding to a question about what would happen if the city hires another assistant law director and the city's financial downturn continues, Scott said that he has received “local credible information” that indicates the city will be looking at some increase in revenue in 2021. That increase would be a “very reasonable and substantial number.”
Council President Bruce Hawkins questioned whether any personnel moves will do anything to affect preventive maintenance and cause the city to “pay the piper later.”
“I don't see at this time that we have any real huge deferments that we are not taking care of,” replied Scott.