Search for new public works director under way

Cary Ashby • May 11, 2019 at 10:00 PM

Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan provided an update to council Tuesday on the search for a new public works director.

Josh Snyder, the city’s first public works director, announced in late April he will start May 16 as the Sandusky assistant city engineer. His last day in Norwalk is Wednesday.

Duncan told council he is considering the possibility of redistributing the work load of the public works director. Currently, it is a full-time, unclassified, exempt position that serves at the pleasure of the mayor, according to city hall records.

“We have to take a good look at Josh’s position,” Duncan said during an interview last week. “He’s really doing the job of two people and the salary isn’t sufficient. We have to look and see what we want to do with his job.”

Snyder made $86,554 annually.

Also, Duncan told council he has posted the position on the following websites: American Public Works Association, Operator Training Committee of Ohio (OTCO), Ohio Society of Professional Engineers, Norwalk city and Indeed. The mayor said there were several applicants on Indeed.com, but very few were qualified.

While expressing concern over the lack of progress in finding Snyder’s replacement, Councilman Matt Doughty told council last week that Snyder provided three to four names of candidates who could be the interim until the city hires someone for the full-time position.

Duncan informed the Reflector on Friday that general services superintendent Wally Ritchie will serve as the interim public works director starting Wednesday. While Ritchie is in that position, Aaron Osborne will be the interim general services superintendent.

Last week, Norwalk Law Director Stuart O’Hara said he had been requested to write a memorandum of understanding with someone who will serve as the interim public works director. While not mentioning that person during a council meeting, O’Hara said the candidate could return to his “old job” once a full-time public works director is hired.

When asked about a timeline to find a full-time public works director, Duncan said it would have been great if that had happened two weeks ago.

“We will have to make adjustments to the pay scale before that happens,” he added.

In other council action Tuesday, Duncan requested to attend training June 5 and 6 in Minneapolis on government performance and innovation. Including travel, the trip would cost $800 from the mayor’s budget. The training is put on by the Governing & Living Cities magazine.

“It seems like it has a lot of good ideas and trends,” Duncan said, referring to the conference. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.”

Council approved the mayor’s travel and requested he report what he learned during the workshop.

Also, safety-service director Ellen Heinz provided council with an update on the tornado siren system. She said five of the sirens were working during the most recent test, which is an improvement over the 2 1/2 functioning ones earlier. 

A technical advisor will be in the city to tour and study the sirens. Heinz, who has contacted a second person or company for replacement prices, said the siren at Veterans Memorial Lake Park will need to be replaced at the very minimum.

In addition, council:

• Learned the Norwalk Fire Department distributed and installed 108 smoke detectors in 54 homes during the “Sound the Alarm” event Monday with the American Red Cross. Firefighters canvassed neighborhoods for about four hours and handed out detectors supplied by the Red Cross, which partnered with the Norwalk Area United Fund, Janotta & Herner and Insurance Services of Norwalk. 

“It’s been a successful project in the past,” Chief John Soisson said.

• Tabled separate ordinances authorizing the sale of two city-owned properties and referred the matter to the planning commission. Those two properties are the site of the former foundry, 53 Newton St., and the old DeForest house, 80 E. Seminary St. Zoning officer Mitch Loughton earlier recommended the city sell them because they no longer have any use for Norwalk.

Law director Stuart O’Hara said Tuesday the city would receive sealed bids on the properties, noting there are no liens or easements on either one.

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