Lawrence City Commission to consider adding 7 more staff positions

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016.

City leaders will soon discuss a request to amend the city’s 2021 budget to add seven positions to city staff, bringing the total number of newly requested positions to more than 20.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will discuss requests from city staff to add the seven positions, which are in addition to the 13.5 administrative and planning department positions the commission previously discussed. The newly proposed positions comprise seven positions in the Municipal Services & Operations Department, such as engineers and inspectors, as well as an environmental remediation manager.

More specifically, the MSO department has requested the addition of one water and wastewater engineering program manager, two senior project engineers, one project coordinator and two inspectors, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The memo states that staff has identified a critical need for additional project management resources and that without additional resources the city is at risk of failing to meet current demand in the area of project management.

“(Construction Management, Engineering, and Design) staff have been running over capacity as verified in the number of hours worked above the standard 40-hour work week,” the memo states. “The current workload is not sustainable and projects continue to be delayed until capacity is available.”

The six MSO positions would cost the city $279,000 in 2021, as they would not be in place for all of the year, and $558,000 in 2022. If the new positions are approved, the memo states that the personnel costs will be reimbursed from bond proceeds and the total cost for a full year is less than 2% of the bond authorizations, so staff estimates that these costs could be covered by money set aside for contingency in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan budget.

The other recommended position is an environmental remediation manager for the city’s contamination cleanup program at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant, according to another city memo. The city took over the Farmland site in 2010 and is legally responsible for the remediation of environmental contaminants. The position would cost about $55,000 for 2021, depending on when the position is filled, and $105,000 annually from the Farmland Remediation Trust. The memo says the needs of the Farmland program require a full-time project or program manager to ensure the existing and developing program commitments and obligations are met.

The seven positions would be part of an upcoming budget amendment. The commission approved a “placeholder” budget for 2021 with the expectation of making quarterly budget adjustments throughout the year.

As the Journal-World reported, city leaders have previously indicated support for adding the initially requested 13.5 positions after the city finished 2020 with millions of dollars more in reserves than expected. Leaders said that outcome put the city on firm financial footing to add what they said were badly needed positions. Those positions and other additions proposed along with them amount to a $1.59 million budget amendment.

Finance Director Jeremy Willmoth said in an email to the Journal-World that the budget amendment that includes the 13.5 positions — as well as the additional seven positions if the commission is supportive — will come back to the commission on April 20 at the earliest.

The City Commission will convene virtually for its regular meeting at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday with limited staff in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The city has asked that residents participate in the meeting virtually if they are able to do so. A link to register for the Zoom meeting and directions to submit written public comment are included in the agenda that is available on the city’s website, lawrenceks.org.

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