Rocky Fork Enterprise

Council mulls fate of vacant positions

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Gahanna City Council will continue dissecting 2014 appropriations during a special committee-of-the-whole meeting at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, following its regular council meeting.

Discussion on Dec. 9 ran the gamut from the potential closure of the city's Ohio Herb Education Center to whether vacant positions should be filled.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb provided a list of vacant positions grouped into three categories: recruiting or planning to fill, service-level dependent/planning to fill and potential reductions in anticipation of the 2015 budget.

She said she isn't planning to hire an assistant city administrator to fill the position left vacant by Brandi Braun, who left Nov. 13 to take a position with the Ohio Department of Commerce.

"There are significant projects Brandi did, such as performance measurement work," Stinchcomb said. "I don't have bandwidth among current directors to do much more. I'm not trained to do performance measurement. We may have to hire a contractor to do that."

Council member Ryan Jolley said that position would be zeroed out as a line item in the appropriations, with the understanding that a part-time position could be considered later or whatever is needed to meet those needs. The cost of that position, with salary and benefits, was $107,447 annually.

Jolley recommended reducing the budgets for line items to zero for the reductions in anticipation of the 2015 budget category.

That category includes four positions, which cost a total of $122,501. They are recreation supervisor, part-time recreation coordinator at the senior center, part-time front-desk recreation coordinator and part-time public-information intern.

Parks and recreation director Tony Collins said the recreation supervisor position has been vacant since May, so a recreation superintendent has picked up that work.

"Knowing the future of the pool is uncertain, we didn't plan to fill that position in 2014 for that reason," he said.

With a recreation coordinator position unfilled at the senior center, he said, only one staff member is there.

"We're working on a senior center plan right now, trying to find another way to operate the senior center," he said.

Jolley said he doesn't favor eliminating the positions but instead prefers to indicate a zero on those line items.

"Zeroing these out doesn't mean we'll never have these positions again," he said.

Council member Beryl Anderson asked Stinchcomb about the pros and cons of such a move as an administrator.

"We've been cutting for years," Stinchcomb said. "I need to choose my battles. If we don't have positions filled, the work they did won't get done."

She said she places a high priority in filling police officer, public service and planning and development positions.

Council agreed that four vacant police officer positions should be filled, as well as a deputy director for planning and development and deputy director of public service.

Council member Karen Angelou said revenue is generated for the Ohio Herb Education Center that offsets the appropriation.

"It is a good place, a tourist attraction that draws people to the city," she said.

Finance director Jennifer Teal said revenue is associated with the center, but the bigger issue is operational cost.

"It doesn't address keeping up the cost of a historical building," she said. "That will consistently dip into the general fund. It may not be a huge liability in any given year, but it's a huge liability looming over your shoulder."

Collins said a grant was used from the Ohio Historical Society this year, and the city was reimbursed for roof work and painting.

"For some things, funds will be there," he said. "More of the costs are our people doing the work. It's our labor from maintenance staff doing that work."

Council member Brian Larick recommended that council members tour the center to better understand its needs.

"It's 100 years old," he said. "There are areas of standing water in the basement. It's a wood structure. For a facility of that age, resources are required to meet an expected standard. Facilities like that require significant dollars to be kept in proper condition."

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