Licking County News

Street committee: Hire staff engineer

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Pataskala's street committee decided Jan. 27 the city should consider hiring a full-time engineer in 2014, but City Council's decision on the matter had to wait.

Bryan Lenzo, a council member who is chairman of the committee, presented the committee's recommendation during City Council's special meeting the same day.

Lenzo asked Pataskala City Council to consider a motion to study a full-time engineer's position and direct the finance committee to study funding sources for the position.

Several City Council members said they were not comfortable considering the motion because the special meeting was advertised to discuss "legislative actions regarding the city of Pataskala 2014 (Roadway Asset Management Plan), including consideration of a motion to dispense with the readings of the ordinance presented and discussion of the recommendation from the street committee on this issue and to discuss and take any appropriate action to hire KASS Corp. as a consultant."

Mayor Mike Compton said he declined to recognize Lenzo's motion for that reason.

During the street committee meeting, Finance Director James Nicholson said the city included $61,700 in wages and benefits for a city engineer in the 2014 budget, which would fund about six months for that position.

City officials also included $90,000 in the 2014 budget to retain Stantec Engineering of Columbus for the first six months of 2014, said Benjamin King, the city's public-services director.

Lenzo said past complaints about contractors not completing road work to the city's specifications have him wondering if a full-time engineer keeping track of all the projects would have helped.

John Gross of Stantec Engineering said after working as a consultant with the city for almost a year, he believes the city would benefit from taking a more active role in its projects.

"The city needs to be controlling the projects and the costs," Gross said.

Gross complimented the committee for increasing its review of the Roadway Asset Management Plan, a role the committee took on late last year.

"It's refreshing to have these conversations," he said.

In other business during the Jan. 27 special meeting, Pataskala City Council unanimously tabled a motion to hire the KASS Corp. as a consultant, pending further review of eligible consultants to work with acting administrator Nathan Coey.

City Council on Jan. 21 hired Coey, the utilities director, as interim administrator. In the proposal to hire Coey, city staff members recommended hiring resident Andy Walther, president of KASS Corp., as a consultant to assist Coey on projects outside the utility department.

Walther said he has served as a project manager for many governments and also has worked with the city on many projects for the parks and youth sports programs.

Lenzo said he respected the work Walther already has done for the city, but he was concerned with the perception of hiring someone who is a friend of several City Council members without requesting proposals from other qualified consultants.

City Council President Dan Hayes agreed, saying city officials should determine who else is interested before hiring a consultant.

Council member Mike Fox argued that the city wants to hire residents and said the whole staff supports hiring Walther.

Fox said Law Director Rufus Hurst reviewed a proposed contract with the KASS Corp. and had no issues with it.

Hurst was not present at the Jan. 27 special meeting to give an opinion.

Hayes proposed tabling the issue until the city could review other proposals.

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