Brainerd makes public works department permanent
The public works department encompasses parks, streets, engineering and transit under one umbrella.
Brainerd’s interim public works department will become permanent, consolidating several city departments, including parks and recreation.
The city council agreed last October to test out an interim public works department , following a request from the parks board after Parks Director Tony Sailer’s announcement of a December retirement . The new department began operating Dec. 19 — the day after Sailer’s departure — with City Engineer Paul Sandy at the helm as interim director.
Public works has operated as an umbrella department of sorts, with Sandy overseeing transit, engineering, streets and parks. The parks foreman and maintenance report directly to Sandy, as does the recreation coordinator in the parks department. Under the new structure, a parks director position is eliminated, but parks programs will continue as normal.
“Things are going extremely well,” City Administrator Jennifer Bergman told the council Monday, July 19.
Ongoing updates to the city’s charter also factor into the decision, Parks Board Chair Kevin Yeager told the board during last week’s meeting. Yeager also sits on the city’s charter commission.
“Generally, the trajectory of the charter is moving towards less specific job titles and moving more towards a monolithic government that has the ability to add people or to move people around to accomplish tasks,” Yeager said. “So more task- and job description-oriented versus personnel- and position-oriented type movement.”
“I would say that we’ve been exceedingly happy,” he told the council, relaying the parks board’s feelings. “There’s been a bit of a learning curve with just some of the aspects of who’s doing what and why and when, but Mr. Sandy and the rest of the staff have been just exemplary in the transition, and I can see every day, every meeting, it continuing to smooth out more and more and more.”
As a user of the city’s parks and summer T-ball and baseball programs, council member Gabe Johnson said he feels this year’s programming is the best it has ever been since he has been raising his kids.
“So we haven’t lost a step in the programming and maybe improved it,” Johnson said, also praising Sandy and his staff for their work.
With city council members agreeing to the shift to a permanent public works department, the next step is for staff to review applicable job descriptions and make any necessary modifications. Staff members will bring any changes or recommendations back to the council at a later date.
“I appreciate the confidence in my department and the maintenance guys and our recreation staff to continue on with this work structure,” he said. “I think it’s been good for all of us, and I think we have a lot of good places we’re going.”
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .