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City returns to engineer

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By
Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

After being without a city engineer since August 2022, the Newcastle City Council voted on March 4 to restore the position and the city will have an engineer again. Council members agreed to essentially replace the city planner that they wished to hire — but were unable to — with an engineer.

Councilman Tyrel Owens was the one to make the motion to advertise for a city engineer, and he expressed support for the recommendation.

“Since we couldn’t procure a city planner, I am glad we are moving forward with a city engineer,” Owens said.

As previously reported, on Aug. 15, 2022, former city engineer Mike Moore resigned and the council decided to move to a city planner system instead of filling his position. At the time, the council hoped that a city planner would be able to help find funds to fund city projects.

Councilman Don Steveson said then that the city was leaving the engineer position open, instead of eliminating it, so the city could fill the position “down the road” if needed, and it appears the need exists.

Since Moore’s resignation, the city has used a contract with part-time outside engineer Chuck Bartlett. To-date, since Nov. 2022, the city has paid $66,380 for services through Bartlett.

The use of contract engineers, or an engineer outside of the city employee structure, was a practice that began while Moore was still employed. Councilman Tom Voss asserted that he would like to see the newly hired engineer be “able to do the work we need.” He noted that the city had hired outside engineers “left and right” at a cost of “thousands of dollars” during Moore’s tenure.

Public works supervisor Greg Stumpff told the council on March 4 that the personnel committee had met and finalized a job description and advertisement for a city engineer.

“I might have a couple of interested engineers,” Stumpff said, before asking the council to open the position up for applications.

Steveson explained that the personnel committee had looked at and combined wording from several job descriptions to create the one being considered by the council. He noted that the committee believes the job description the committee wrote should help solve that issue.

Steveson also mentioned salary, stating that the committee had discussed looking at an annual salary of $90,000-$100,000, depending on years of experience.

“In order to get someone qualified in, we are going to have to pay them,” Councilwoman Ann McColley said.

Owens said that a salary should be agreed upon before advertising, with Mayor Pam Gualtieri suggesting that the city list a starting pay range, with pay depending on experience.

Steveson agreed, stating that everyone is “going to want to know what they are getting paid before they come in and interview.”

Owens noted that whatever the council does for salary, the city “stands” to make money if it hires an engineer “that can do some engineering.” Especially, he said, because there is no oversight of the city crew included in this description.

The council voted to approve an annual salary for the position of $85,000-$100,000, depending on experience.

“We stand to save a lot of money, even at $100,000,” Owens said, noting that this will occur if the engineer’s work is done “in house.”

“That was kind of the process to come to this decision,” he concluded.

The council also voted to add a public works foreman back to the city crew roster. According to Steveson, the public works supervisor is essentially holding two positions. He noted that adding a foreman will relieve some of the work that Stumpff does.

“I think he has been doing a good job of trying to keep up with projects while maintaining public works daily tasks,” Steveson said.

The council voted to approve the foreman position, with the intent to hire from within, with a start date of July 1.

 

Watch the entire meeting on the News Letter Journal’s YouTube channel.

 

City Beats

Notes from the March 4, 2024, meeting of the Newcastle City Council

• The council approved sewer bill forgiveness for Kipp Dopp ($200.91) and for David and Joni Kachelhoffer ($155.65).

• The council approved retail liquor licenses for Perkins Tavern, Short Stop Fuel Mart, Smoke Shop Liquors, Cap N Bottle, Decker’s Wine and Spirits, Loaf ‘N Jug, Yesway and Maverik; bar and grill licenses for Isabella’s and Newcastle Lodge & Convention Center; a club liquor license for Newcastle Country Club and a restaurant license for Frida’s House Mexican Food.

• The council voted to add a board committee to the council’s standing committee list to aid in communication between local boards and the council.

• The council scheduled a budget workshop for April 8 at 5 p.m.

• The council signed lease agreements with both Collins Communications and Central Community College.

• The council approved a pay scale of $20-$25 an hour for the newly created administrative assistant and child advocacy coordinator to be employed by the Newcastle Police Department.

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