GRANDVIEW - During the next two years changes will be taking place in the city of Grandview's leadership as four top positions will be vacated due to the retirement of Treasurer John Myers, Assistant Police Chief Mark Ware, Police Chief Dave Charvet, and City Administrator and Public Works Director Cus Arteaga.
The transition as those individuals retire has been on the minds of the city council, who last night heard from Arteaga, Charvet and Myers, who gave their thoughts on how to move forward with as little interruption as possible.
Mayor Norm Childress said he has been working with Arteaga to come up with options to be considered for transitioning from the current leadership to the new leadership.
He said the pair looked at the departments to be affected by the retirements and wanted to see how those departments will be impacted.
"We have to plan for this fiscally," Childress told the council members, stating there are different scenarios for the council to consider as the retirement dates loom.
He said council direction is being sought before any decisions are made.
Arteaga said, "We had to look at what we will do and how we are going to get there."
He believes it would be prudent to have direction from the council members by December so that the first position to be vacated can be filled more quickly.
That position is the treasurer's post, which is set to be vacated at the end of January 2013.
"The question is whether or not the city is in a hurry to make a decision," said Arteaga.
Answering himself, he said there isn't a rush, just a desire to be proactive in the decision-making process.
Childress interrupted the comments, stating he wanted to make it clear to everyone that there are no hard feelings regarding the individuals who will be retiring.
"These employees have been loyal and served Grandview for a great number of years...these folks need a break...it's all amicable," said the mayor.
Arteaga, picking up where he was, said the city is currently in the middle of its budget planning process and he believed it was important to think ahead so that any fiscal impacts that might result from filling the vacancies with newly hired employees can be properly considered in the budget process.
He said the treasurer's position might be modified and the salary currently set for the position could be adjusted to fit the new and/or reduced duties, for example.
"Also, there may be the option of allowing someone on staff who can fill in on an interim basis (to do so)," said Arteaga.
He said a current employee may be able to fill in on an interim basis. If that employee can fulfill the duties and decides he or she wants to take on the position permanently, they may be able to do so.
Myers spoke on the matter, stating he believes "...a good manager is always trying to put themselves out of a job."
He said he has worked with individuals under the city's employ and has the intent to make sure someone is properly trained for the job so the city can keep with its long-standing practice of promoting from within.
Myers said he wants the transition to take place with as little disruption as possible.
Turning the conversation toward the police chief's position, Arteaga said the position is currently a civil service post. He said the city will need to begin looking at potential candidates in June 2013 to have the post filled when Charvet retires approximately six months later.
That's because there is testing that must be conducted to ensure the candidate can fulfill his or her duties.
The question as to whether or not the post should remain a civil service position comes about because a civil servant cannot be legally required to reside within the city or its boundaries.
Many cities, said Arteaga, are making the post a non-civil service position so that the municipal governments can mandate the person in charge of the police force live within their jurisdiction.
Charvet said several years ago several municipalities in the state of Washington asked the legislature to pass a WAC (Washington Administrative Code) that allowed the cities to remove the police and fire chief positions from civil service.
"That would allow the city administration the ability to hire and fire at will," said Charvet, stating he believes the position should remain a civil service post to provide the future police chief protections provided by the civil service board.
He said that provides the chief of police the ability to fulfill his or her duties without some of the worries associated with local politics, which he said has been an issue for some departments in the Yakima Valley.
Charvet agreed, however, that it is important that a police chief live in or near the community he or she serves.
The city council members were told the decision is one they must weigh carefully.
Charvet said the council cannot change the status of the position from civil service to non-civil service until the individual serving as police chief retires.
The assistant police chief's position is also currently a civil service post. He told the council the police chief is the only person on city staff who can make the decision to change the designation and the police chief must seek approval from the civil service board before the decision can be finalized.
Moving on to the subject of Arteaga's two posts, it was said that there are several things to consider regarding the transition for his retirement slated for the end of 2014.
Among the options council must consider is the ideal of creating a new assistant city administrator position on a temporary basis to allow Arteaga to mentor his replacement, as well as an assistant public works director.
This option, which was most popular among the council members, would be the most costly of options presented to the council. The temporary assistant city administrator would increase the annual administration salaries by approximately $100,000 per year.
The other option the council members thought might work, depending on the city's budget, would be less expensive. That option allows the city to hire a contracted public works director on a trial basis at an hourly rate of $45, or approximately $50,000 per year while continuing to employ a full-time city administrator.
"In my opinion, that option does provide the best results with the least financial impact," said Arteaga.
He said there is also the consideration that the budget for administrative salaries will be reduced somewhat in the next couple of years because the newly hired administrators will likely not be paid at the top of the salary range for each of the positions.
"We're looking at the whole picture," said Arteaga.
Each of the council members said they liked the option of hiring an assistant city administrator, and most agreed the option of contracting a public works director might be considered if the budget deems it necessary.
The council members also agreed they want to have a police chief who is living in and invested in the community.
However, no direction was provided directly following last night's special meeting.