Last month’s departure of Rod Meredith leaves an open spot in both the Public Works and Parks Departments that is needing to be filled. But members of the Riley County Commission agreed Thursday that finding someone who will be the perfect fit is more important than filling the position quickly.
Public works director and county engineer Leon Hobson told commissioners he could simply find a person to fill the position, but agreed with commissioners that doing so would be tough because of its dual nature.
“It’s going to be hard to find someone with a background in public works,” but also has an interest or experience in parks, said Commissioner Dave Lewis.
The other option is to divide the position into separate public works and parks directorships. That too, has downsides.
“There are a lot of connections between the two departments,” said Commissioner Karen McCulloh. “We don’t want to create a wall. We don’t want to get too narrow. We’ve had a really nice medley.” Commissioners acknowledged that creating two director positions would cost more as well.
Hobson will meet with members of both the Public Works and Parks departments in an effort to figure out which option is going to work best for everyone. The commission also suggested that the departments look at other similar counties for inspiration.
But Hobson stressed that his goal isn’t getting someone hired particularly fast.
“We aren’t in a huge hurry; we can maintain how we are for a little bit, but we do need to move forward,” he said.
Hobson thinks the process will take around three months to complete and he intends to schedule a later work session with the commission to discuss his findings.
Chamber of Commerce
Officials of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce asked the commission for comments and suggestions on the Chamber’s 2012 Legislative Policies and Positions. For the most part, the commission was very pleased with what the Chamber presented, but had a few comments on both the proposed machinery exemption bill and bidding to local businesses.
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce member Frank Beer stressed the need for government entities to take local businesses in competitive bid situations.
“For entities that bid, we see it as if they want to go with the lowest bid allow local businesses to match it,” said Beer.
The commission agreed that this was an important strategy both monetarily and for the community.
“We will make sure to talk with our staff about purchasing locally through bids,” said McCulloh. “We try and go with both the lowest and best bid.”
Planning and special projects director Monty Wedel brought a new development with the metropolitan planning organization to the commissions attention.
Wedel said the MPO board added a portion of Fort Riley that is located in Riley County into the county’s overall population, making the county’s percentage of the overall percentage jump from 6 percent to more than 12 percent. Because membership fees are driven by population, that translates to a $34,000 increase in county fees to the MPO. Commissioners were confused with the change, not just because of the jump in fees but because they don’t have jurisdiction over the roads or land that Fort Riley owns.
“Adding Fort Riley doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Wedel. “We aren’t going to take care of the roads on Fort Riley.”
But even if the roads aren’t fixed by Riley County, Fort Riley still needs to be included in the MPO. The idea kicked around by the commission was to add the affected area of the post’s population into Riley County, but keep the population percentage for funding purposes at 6 percent. The commission also agreed that even though Fort Riley wouldn’t be included in the county’s percentage, Ogden’s population would.
Wedel will present the concept at the city/county meeting on Sept. 20.