After around a month of deliberation, the Riley County Public Works department has a set of plans to fill the two positions former assistant public works director/parks director Rod Meredith left behind.
At Monday’s meeting, Riley County commissioners unanimously approved a motion to hire both a public works operations manager and a parks manager. It deferred to the incoming commission that convenes in January, however, a recommendation by county engineer Leon Hobson to also hire a “grounds tech,” citing the costs of additional staffing.
The question of filling the two positions has been an open one since Meredith’s retirement took effect in August.
Commissioners did so after reviewing several options presented by Hobson, eventually opting for one that would combine parks into the Public Works department. That would involve hiring a public works operations manager and also a parks manager. He also proposed adding a grounds tech. And that was the step commissioners balked at.
Commissioners considered but rejected several other options, one of which would have been keeping the position as Meredith held it. The new hire would have filled both positions at a salary of around $116,000. A second option would have been to establish a parks director position and cut out the public works duties. That option was dismissed due to cost.
“My concern is always adding personnel,” Commissioner Karen McCulloh said about adding a facility and grounds tech, as proposed by Hobson. She said the department had already added a half person when the health department was added to the county and she didn’t want to over-staff if state mandates force the county to tighten spending.
“Staffing is 89 percent of our budget,” McCulloh said, “If we have to fund community corrections, public safety trumps everything else. We just don’t want to have to fire a bunch of people.”
Hobson noted that the county is growing. “If I’m going to combine parks into my department, then I want it staffed correctly,” he said.