City Engineer Greg Bachman announced he will be leaving his position with the city of Pickerington once the design phase of the state Route 256 safety project is completed.
"It looks like the SR 256 project design will be substantially complete in June 2013, so around then will be my leaving date," Bachman said.
"I don't have any definite plans going forward except retirement, (or) at least a long sabbatical," he said.
The city of Pickerington posted the listing for Bachman's position on the city's website Jan. 18.
According to the posting, the official start date for a new city engineer will be July 1, 2013. The posting further states "There will be an opportunity for the successful applicant to work alongside the current Pickerington City Engineer (Bachman) prior to his June 30 retirement."
Bachman said if the city moves on hiring for the position soon, he will be able to mentor that person.
"Assuming that they hire my replacement in the next month or two, I would be able to help train my replacement until I leave in June," he said.
Bachman has served as Pickerington's city engineer since June 2009.
Prior to coming to Pickerington, he served as the Summit County engineer from 2003 to 2009.
He said he made the decision to leave last fall.
"In October, I told the city that I would be retiring once the design for the SR 256 safety project was mostly complete," Bachman said. "This was after the city manager submitted his budget showing a 40-percent cut for the engineering department.
"City Council fully restored the engineering department budget, but I felt it best to be moving on," Bachman said.
Pickerington City Council's service committee discussed the hiring process for Bachman's replacement at its meeting Jan. 16.
Councilman Jeff Fix said he would like to "cast a fairly wide net" in terms of finding suitable candidates for the position.
Fix said he, as chairman of the service committee, as well as Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray, City Council President Gavin Blair and City Manager Bill Vance will be handling the hiring process in screening resumes and conducting the initial round of interviews "as we bring it down to the top two or three candidates that are qualified to serve."
Committee member Chris Schweitzer urged expediency in the hiring process.
"Our objective is to have someone on board April 1 at latest. That seems fairly aggressive, to get all that done in the next 75 days," Fix said.
Pickerington's engineering department already has been short one staff engineer for more than a month, however, there are no plans to replace her despite money provided for the position in the city's 2013 budget.
"The city has not had plans to hire another staff member for the engineering department," Bachman said.
"My existing staff engineer, Brenda VanCleave, resigned in November," he said, and her last day was Dec. 7.
City Manager Bill Vance said he devised a transition plan to make up for the staffing shortfall by providing "as many resources as possible" to assist Bachman with all his duties.
Vance put forth "continuing professional services agreements" with four engineering firms, one construction inspection firm and a local IT firm.
Vance said the agreements, if executed, "would cost the city nothing."
"They provide us with the foundation upon which we can pursue services whenever necessary," he said.
Vance said the advantage of outsourcing the engineering work is that it will provide the foundation and capability to negotiate contracts associated with specific projects.
He said since the staff engineer position is vacant yet currently funded, additional resources will be available to the city for use in procuring professional services.
Fix said the professional service contract would provide Vance "with flexibility to contract with these different firms ... for the things they specialize in and the city wouldn't have to seek a new contract each time a relatively minor task would need to be completed."
Service committee member Cristie Hammond expressed concerns about the viability of outsourcing the city's engineering work.
"Would this actually be a better deal than having a person on staff?" Hammond asked. "Would things get done in a timely fashion if we use consultants?"
"Yes, absolutely they will get done in a timely fashion," Vance said.
Fix assured Hammond the city will hold Vance accountable for the use of the subcontracted engineering firms in terms of staying within budget and making sure projects are completed on time.
"No one has a crystal ball (on) how timely these things are going to be. I share your concern," Fix said, adding that he will support Vance's decision to contract with the outside engineering firms in lieu of using in-house staff.
"The results will speak for themselves," Fix said.
Council President Gavin Blair said it will be three months before the city has to hire a deputy city engineer.
"In those three months, we'll see how it plays out," he said.
Vance said the engineering department is subsidized by the taxpayers and he would like it to get to the point where developers who are benefitting from various projects foot the bill for engineering work.
"Development pays for development," Vance said.
"By the time we get to the budget process (in) 2014, we'll have a clear understanding whether this is successful or not," Fix said.
As for Bachman, he expressed his appreciation for the time he has spent as city engineer.
"I have enjoyed my years with the city and wish the city well," he said. "I have particularly enjoyed working with all of City Council and the city staff here at 51 E. Columbus St.."
On Feb. 2, Bachman received the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce's Doug Barr Safety Award for 2012 in recognition of his efforts in spearheading numerous projects to improve the safety of the Pickerington community.
Bachman was recognized in particular for procuring the Ohio Department of Transportation state Route 256 safety grant, a Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission grant for Center/Milnor/Meadows intersection improvements and Safe Routes to School grants.