2017-06-01 / Front Page

Village Council looks to increase DPW efficiency

By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

GOODRICH — During recent budget workshops, the village council made it clear they are looking to improve record keeping and make other processes more efficient in the village, starting with the Department of Public Works (DPW).

For years, the DPW Director, currently Ethan Campbell, has made it a practice to make handwritten schedules of what each employee is assigned to do for the day and to also create the employees time sheets based on that schedule.

Councilman Tim Barraco, who is employed in the financial industry and others on the council who are familiar with more technologically advanced and efficient systems, explained this is not something they are willing to continue.

For one, Barraco stated, this type of system leaves the supervisor open to accusations of false record keeping. He is in favor of a global positioning system (GPS) based smart phone application which will have each employee record their own time, as well as pinpoint the location they are working.

Barraco and fellow councilman Jacob Vick perused multiple DPW records and questioned not only time-keeping, but the personnel policy which currently allows an unlimited number of sick days per employee, instead of following FMLA (the federal Family Medical Leave Act) which has been in effect since 2009. This issue was set aside to be looked at in more detail in a future meeting.

The councilmen stated they were concerned at records which were not at all detailed and showed more than 450 hours in maintenance on various, but unidentified DPW equipment. They indicated if the equipment was in need of that much service, it would indicate a need for replacement, and further they felt the employee’s time might be better utilized in other work.

Councilwoman Shannon McIntosh agreed, stating in regards to recording time, that as an employee, she would not want anyone else recording her time. Barraco stated the more employees involved in a process the more room there is for human error and he was hoping to eliminate that as well, in addition to removing the possibility of possible fraud or accusations of such actions.

Although there was some defensiveness on the part of the DPW employees present, the council attempted to convey they were aiming for improvement and not looking to lay blame for current practices. President Mark Baldwin said what they have been doing is common practice for a DPW.

“Common practice doesn’t make it right,” Barraco said. He also brought up the possibility of contracting out the mowing and landscaping services performed by the DPW but said that is a long way into the future, because due to the time keeping system, they aren’t sure of how many hours they would need to bid for at this point.

Barraco also cited an electronic system as being both a protection for the employees and the village as employer, and a way to provide accountability in case there was a problem or accusation made. The employees are provided phones by the village which could house the time-keeping application.

Campbell stated since he took the job in 1996, the DPW duties have increased and evolved with the growth of the village. According to the U.S. Census, the village population has increased by approximately 500 people in the last ten years.

There was also a discussion of how best to allow access to DPW employees, with Administrator Jakki Sidge voting for residents going through her, and council members wanting DPW to make direct contact via phone or email which only the DPW has access to; again for accountability purposes and to eliminate the possibility of human error.

Barraco stated this way employees are held accountable and unable to shift blame from one to another if an issue is not resolved. Although Campbell stated there were multiple ways to get in touch with him, Barraco cited village policy is to get back to a resident in 48-hours and adding multiple layers in the chain of communication could have a negative impact on that timeline and just complicates the process.

In other business, residents spoke in public comment and urged the council to be fiscally responsible on budget issues, especially pertaining to employee health benefits. There was some question as to when the employees began their five percent contribution to their benefits, which was voted on in Nov. 2015, and Sidge stated it went into effect the next benefit year, which would be 2016, not the fiscal year of the budget.

More information is being requested from the village to clarify the issue.

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