PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth Mayor David Malone introduced possible future legislation during Monday’s conference session, requesting the re-authorization of the position of Assistant Director of Wastewater to assist in dealing with “many wastewater and stormwater issues,” and allowing the proactive management of the city’s sewers, wastewater treatment, and flood defense.
In 2010 the positions of Public Utilities Director of Wastewater and Assistant Director were combined. Now, Wastewater Director Rick Duncan is asking for the titles to be separated again and an assistant hired to help him with the current task of the Longterm Control Plan, which is occupying much of his time and energy.
“Mr. Duncan needs an administrative assistant to help with all the functions of his job, with everything that is going on right now I think it’s something we need to do, however we also have an issue with respect as to how to pay for the position,” Council President John Haas said. He then asked the other Council members for answers to the question of how to fund the position, which, before being done away with, carried a $38,314 annual salary plus a $2,000 increase upon Class-4 certification.
Haas asked if the position would be filled from within the current ranks of employees of that department. Duncan said he would have to go outside the department to find someone to fill the position, and that would most likely eliminate a current hourly employee, which drew a response from Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler.
“I can’t see laying somebody off just to hire somebody,” Saddler said. “That doesn’t make very good sense to take somebody that is paying taxes and putting food in their mouths to hire somebody else.”
Malone reminded Saddler that a laid-off employee would be able to bid for another opening in the city.
Duncan said a stormwater plan is in place that would bring in increased revenue of $100,000 to $300,000 a year without taking more money from people who currently pay their fees, which would eventually pay for the additional employee.
“My proposal would be to exempt people who are already paying the property tax. They shouldn’t be billed twice for that for flood defense and stormwater,” Duncan said. “Any property in the city of Portsmouth that is tax exempt, churches, state and county buildings - none of those pay property taxes. Based on some calculations I have done, you can implement a stormwater plan and not be a burden on the residents. I would get churches and other tax exempt organizations to pay their fair share.”
“I would respectfully request that Council not approve this,” Portsmouth City Solicitor Mike Jones said. “I have talked with Mr. Duncan about this. My concern is that you’ve obviously got a situation - the city is in Fiscal Caution - and I think it would be very difficult for us to justify with the State Auditor adding an additional employees which in essence is what we would be adding. I understand there is a need in many departments, and Rick’s department is no different from the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Service Department. All of these departments are having various personnel issues. We’re also having issues with our Police Department, where we’re not up to required legal staffing, which has been recently mandated by the (Scioto County Common Pleas) Court here by Judge (William T.) Marshall who basically ordered us to make it up to our required staffing.”
Jones said he thinks Duncan’s plan is a good idea, but referred to it as - “putting the cart before the horse.”
Sixth Ward Councilman Steve Sturgill said it goes back to recent discussions about not being able to afford the current city government.
In the end, Council asked Duncan to come back in the future with more information.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org