Syracuse tables hiring of three new positions

Nov 19 2011 - 11:15pm

SYRACUSE -- City officials want to take their time to consider a new proposal to hire a full-time city attorney, a full-time engineer, and create a marketing and communications position.

Following a 30-minute discussion on Tuesday, the city council formally tabled a request to consider moving ahead with creating those full-time positions, while also echoing some concerns about the possible financial implications of a new communications position, which would be shown on the books only for the time being.

City Manager Robert Rice said an ongoing review of city staff during the past four months has shown that creating full-time positions for an attorney and an engineer would likely save the city money while also gaining much more access to specific skills. He said the city should also consider hiring a marketing/communications specialist in the future to deal with social media and other issues.

He said the position wouldn't be filled until there was a vacancy within city staff.

Rice suggested the changes come down to availability and cost.

"We get a full work week for the same wage," Rice said in explaining his proposal for a full-time attorney and full-time engineer.

Currently, the city contracts out both legal and engineering services. Rice said that results in maybe 10 hours to 15 hours of work a week on legal issues and something about the same on engineering issues.

There is currently $101,000 in the 2011-12 fiscal year budget for legal services and $151,000 for engineering services.

He said even if the city hired an attorney and an engineer at the higher end of an established wage scale, the city's costs would be about the same as what it is paying now.

Councilman Larry Shingleton asked to table the motion to create the new positions until they had time to review the financial data and also to review the city's current need.

Shingleton asked why city officials would create a marketing and communications position if they weren't going to fill it immediately. He also wondered if the city really needed that service.

"I don't think there's a need for a marketing specialist. I want to make sure this need is really there. I prefer not to have it there," Shingleton said.

Citing a public vote against a bond issue and more spending, Shingleton suggested city officials need to look at more transparency in how taxpayer funds are spent.

"Sometimes we as a council are so hands off, we don't know what's going on," Shingleton said.

Councilman Matt Kimmel was also not eager to create a new position, suggesting it only opened a door that couldn't be closed in the future.

"We need to be wary of any government at any level. If we approve a position, it can be filled without our consent," Kimmel said.

While tabling the big hiring issues, the council did approve hiring a part-time bailiff and also amended the wage scale for a new building inspector. The vote was 3-2 in favor of the new bailiff with both Kimmel and Shingleton voting against.

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