City to have public works candidate by Dec. 16

The Jefferson City Council could decide on a new public works director as soon as next month.

At the Public Works and Planning Committee meeting Thursday, interim City Administrator Drew Hilpert presented a proposed bill to change the residency requirements for all department directors, as a result of previous discussions about hiring a new public works director. Hilpert said he hopes to bring the council a public works director candidate by Dec. 16.

The public works director position has been vacant since April, when former director Roger Schwartze resigned.

City Engineer Matt Morasch has been performing the job in the interim, but because he lives outside city limits, could not be considered for the full-time position without some type of exception or code change.

In May, the council approved a bill expanding residency requirements for certain department directors to a 15-mile radius around Jefferson City. But that expansion did not apply to the public works director, city administrator, city clerk, fire chief or police chief.

The proposed bill presented Thursday would not force current employees who are promoted to a director position to move within city limits if they do not already, instead stating that if the person moves at any point while employed with the city, they will move within city limits.

The bill also would allow the council the option to provide a similar exception to the residency requirement to new employees.

In October, Hilpert discussed the position with the Council Committee on Administration, saying the city has three good candidates: Britt Smith, operations division director; David Bange, engineering supervisor; and Morasch.

Hilpert has said the city is unlikely to have an extra $130,000 for the salary of a public works director in the near future and hiring from within would allow the city to eliminate the city engineer position and reshuffle the department to make up for the loss.

In other business, the committee discussed a possible addition of four street lights on Heisinger Road, where the city recently completed a new sidewalk project.

The request for new street lights came from 4th Ward Councilman Carlos Graham, who is not a member of the Public Works and Planning Committee. Graham said he had been contacted by a business owner in the area who was concerned about how dark the area gets.

“I feel it’s very unsafe … I’m very concerned,” Graham said. “I just pray and hope that nothing happens.”

Morasch said it would cost about $2,500 to install four new street lights, which would also add about $800 in electricity costs in the annual budget.

After some discussion about whether people actually use the new sidewalk, 4th Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll made a motion to approve installing the new lighting, which failed for lack of a second. Fifth Ward Councilman Ralph Bray suggested keeping the project on a list of future projects to consider, perhaps in better economic times.

“I wouldn’t mind revisiting this,” Bray said.

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