City Manager says service dept is “not acceptable”

By Frank Lewis

February 11, 2014

By Frank Lewis


Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen collected trash over the weekend, responding to complaint calls and picking up garbage in a dump truck — just one more thing that led to a statement he made to Portsmouth City Council Monday night.

“There’s going to be a lot of changes in our service department,” Allen said. “When the Navy builds a ship, they send it out and they put it under stress to be tested to see what it can take and how it’s going to function and operate. This terrible cold weather we’ve had this winter has put a stress on our service department. And we have been able to see how we react and how we operate and in my eyes it’s not acceptable.”

Allen said he knows a lot of city residents have been frustrated by not having their trash picked up, and lack of snow removal operations.

“I can tell you that I am equally as frustrated,” Allen said. “There’s no excuse for the curb lanes in the downtown looking as they do. They should have been cleared when the snow was slushy. One day there was slushy snow and they were told to get downtown and clean those curb lanes and it didn’t happen, and it turned to ice and it has been ice ever since. The trash, I had to go out personally Friday evening and pick up people’s trash that had called to complain and I wasn’t very happy about that. And everywhere I drove in the dump truck there were trash cans full of trash. I don’t know where it’s being picked up from, but it’s not acceptable. And I want everybody to know that. I intend to address that.”

Allen continues to be focused on the goals he said the city hired him to work on. On Monday night Allen gave City Council a list of 11 tasks, activities, goals and objectives for 2014. He told City Council that while other things are being worked on by Council, he knows what he wants and needs to accomplish.

Allen listed resolving the transfer station situation with a solution that is the most cost effective for the long term, as one of the main issues he is going to deal with. Rumpke purchased Pike Sanitation, and with that purchase came a major fee increase, leading Allen to go looking for a better deal.

Allen said he wants to complete a 2014 budget that provides an accurate depiction of where the city of Portsmouth is financially and is a document that communicates to Council, department heads and the public what activities the city performs and the cost of those activities. He said he expects to, in August, begin putting together the 2015 budget to give Council time to evaluate it. He said he expects to have that budget ready by November.

Another important item on his “to do” list is to evaluate the wastewater fund for funding of the city’s project contained in the Administrative Consent Order, a project best known as the Grandview Avenue sewer project which also includes other areas of the wastewater system.

“Our wastewater fund ended the year in the negative, $135,000,” Allen said. “We have a $5 million project coming in June. So the next step is I have to evaluate the wastewater fund and evaluate our rates and figure out what we’re going to do about paying for this project.”

Allen said another priority is creating a five-year capital improvement plan so City Council can know what they need to spend on capital improvements, and helps the city detail its recovery, as well as a five-year financial plan which he has to submit to the State Auditor’s Office. “I believe we will have a five-year plan that is accurate and doable,” Allen said.

Allen listed negotiating labor agreements with the firefighters union and the police union as among his priorities.

“We obviously have a lot of issues involving our medical insurance, the costs,” Allen said. “And last, a facilities plan for all city operations.”

Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.