Council Votes to Keep Planning in City Hall

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2By Terry Rogers

On Monday, May 11, 2015, Milford City Manager, Hans Medlarz, presented a proposal to council members requesting that the City Planning Coordinator, Code Enforcement and Mapping be moved to the Public Works Complex on Airport Road and out of the City Hall Building.

“Keeping these departments in this building is creating a difficult work environment for the planning department,” Mr. Medlarz explained. “Customers would need to visit the Airport Road facility in order to apply for permits and then pay for the permit at the Customer Service building downtown. Because most permits take several days to process, this should not present a hardship to the customers.”

“We are promoting downtown, wanting to bring people to the downtown area, yet you are proposing that we move a large number of employees out of City Hall to a building that is not in the downtown area,” said Councilman Jamie Burk. “I think this sends the wrong message to businesses when we are trying to get them to come downtown.”

Councilman James Starling said that the Planning Department had been located in the basement for some time and some employees were moved temporarily. He said that the system worked before and he did not see why it would not work again. Mr. Medlarz explained that moving the employees was simply a more efficient way to operate the departments. Councilman Chris Mergner said that although he did feel that City Hall should be utilized, he was unclear whether moving the Planning Department back to the building was the best option.

When a roll call vote was taken, Councilman Mergner voted no to moving the Planning Department back to City Hall as he did not have enough information based on the history of moving them out of the building in the first place. He said he would have preferred more information before making the decision. Councilman Garrett Grier voted yes to the motion that the Planning Department move to City Hall.

“I agree that we need more information,” Councilman Grier said. “However, it was good when we had everyone here at City Hall. I do want everyone back here so that we can use the building as much as possible.” Councilman Skip Pikus also voted yes saying that the building should be utilized as it was intended and that the City should encourage people to be downtown. Councilman Burk also voted yes as did Councilman Doug Morrow, Councilman Starling and Councilwoman Katrina Wilson. Councilman Owen Brooks voted no as he felt all Public Works departments should remain in the Public Works Building.

In addition to the Planning Department relocation, council also discussed the need for a better phone system. Currently, each building is on a separate system which makes it difficult to transfer calls. Mr. Medlarz said that he and Rick Carmean, the Electric Superintendent had looked into a central phone system so that all calls would be answered by the same person and that would allow calls to be transferred more efficiently.

“The phone system here is very bad,” Mr. Medlarz explained. “We would want the new system to be placed in one central location with cross-trained staff so that there would be coverage at all times during business hours.” Mr. Medlarz said that it would make the most sense to place the central switchboard at the Customer Service Center as there are more employees in that department who could be cross-trained.

Councilman Grier asked if this would mean there would be no one at the front desk in City Hall of the current receptionist was moved to the Customer Service Department. Mr. Medlarz explained that the plan was to move Christine Crouch, the current Assistant City Clerk and Planning Commission Administrative Assistant to the front desk at City Hall.

“Right now, Ms. Crouch is sitting in a hallway,” Mr. Medlarz explained. “This would provide someone at the entrance to City Hall and give her a better working environment.” Council asked Mr. Medlarz to get prices on the phone system and return to them for a decision.

Mr. Medlarz also explained that the City was paying $45,000 per year for outside companies to clean city offices. He suggested that the city higher a custodian who would handle the duties of cleaning and maintenance.

“If we hire someone to do that job, we aren’t going to pay them $45,000, are we?” asked Councilman Brooks. Mr. Medlarz said that he would anticipate hiring someone at approximately $15 per hour who would be responsible not only for cleaning the facilities, but for other tasks related to maintenance as well. Mr. Medlarz said that he would discuss the matter with Human Resources and return to council with costs for hiring such an employee.