I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. Sunnyside Councilman Don Vlieger wants to eliminate the public works director position again. He states it is not personal, but financial. What it really is, is a cheap shot, as Councilman Paul Garcia stated.
Why this last minute maneuver, to place a very restricted time limit on staff to come up with the reasons to keep the position? Is it just Vlieger trying to eliminate an employee that he had a personal conflict with, someone who dared to tell him no?
Councilman Vlieger stated that the public works director's wages are inflated. He also states that he did not bring it up earlier because he did not realize the wage discrepancy. He has been reviewing a two-year budget that contains the present wages and benefits. If he has not figured out the wages for Jim Bridges, the public works director, until now, I wonder how well he is performing his duties as a councilman.
Mr. Bridges got a 10 percent or so bump in wages, plus some benefits, while serving as acting city manager. The wages should have been reduced to the previous level when the new city manager was hired, and still can be.
A history lesson will show that Councilman Vlieger had a personal problem with the former public works director, Gary Potter. His position was written out of the budget. Less than a year later the position was reinstated and Mr. Bridges was promoted. Apparently the council felt they needed someone to oversee the entire department and to take care of the massive amounts of government grants we apply for and receive, so Mr. Bridges was given the job. Was there a mistake then or is the mistake now? It's going to be interesting to see should this position once again be eliminated.
Writing a position out of the budget is something this councilman has done when told no to a request. It may possibly cost Mr. Bridges his job, one that he does as well as any other department head.
I ask the council to consider pushing back his wages and benefits to the level they were at before he became acting city manager, and to take the time to really look at this to make sure it is the right move for the city overall. The council can always amend the budget anytime within the next two years to eliminate the position, or the city manager can terminate him if he is not performing to expectations. Eliminating the position of public works director is not something that needs, nor should be, decided in a week.
/s/ Jim Stanton, Sunnyside