Des Moines City Council adds four new utility staffers at Thursday night meeting

by Jack Mayne

Four new employees were approved by the Des Moines City Council because virtually all of the Des Moines Building division staff would be retiring in the next five years.

New people must be brought in not only to bolster the department but also to get the experience needed to take over the department in the future, Councilmembers said

Councilmember Bob Sheckler moved to authorize an additional four full-time staff be added, a motion that passed unanimously.

‘Very cyclical’
Sheckler told the Waterland Blog on Friday that the department is “very cyclical” because during some periods staff in that department is laid off, only to be needed a year or so later to carry on the duties of the complex department.

“Succession planning is a very good idea,” said Councilmember Vic Pennington at the Council meeting Thursday (July 9).

Councilmember Jeremy Nutting told the Council he believes the addition is “the right move … we want builders here in Des Moines.”

The money for the four positions will be partly paid for by Surface Management Fund money, which legally cannot be used for general city expenses, and partly from city development and building fee revenue, City Manager Tony Piasecki told the Waterland Blog on Friday.

No money for police
The Waterland Blog received an unsigned email prior to the Thursday night session that criticized the addition in public works and surface water management rather than add a previously authorized four additional city police officers.

The email said the person had been told by “a couple of Des Moines officers” that “the police department has not ever been authorized to hire the four officers to bolster the strength of the department that we were told would happen last year and as I understand were also budgeted for. The officers told me they believe the reason the police department hasn’t been allowed to hire is due to lack of funding.

“It certainly seems like to me if the Council passes this item tonight they have their priorities very messed up and truly have no understanding for the needs of our community.”

Piasecki said Friday the officer had been authorized in the budget but that he had informed the Council that projected city income for 2016 might very well be insufficient to continue paying additional police officer next year. The city income problems may begin to get better in 2017 and beyond as Des Moines Business Park and Sheraton Hotel projects get completed and begin producing revenue for the city.

The city manager again emphasized that the money for the public works and surface water management workers could not legally be used to pay for police officers.


12 Responses to “Des Moines City Council adds four new utility staffers at Thursday night meeting”
  1. RedondoRick says:

    Utility Staff 4 Police Department 0. It was a shut out at Thursday nights city council meeting when the council voted for 4 new full time utility staff. Again leaving our police department hanging on thin lines. Council says its time to hire staff for replacing older staff that will retire in the next 5 years. Does it really take 5 years to train for their jobs? You hear it all around town, when are they going to hire more police officers? Well no time soon with this council. Their living from paycheck to paycheck but still seem to find a budget for staff members leaving our police department with only 4 officers to cover the entire city at any one giving time. The police department was promised new officers last year and now must wait until 2017 when the city council is banking on a tax windfall from all the construction off 216th. Until then, the city will work short handed with police protection. This effects all of us folks. It’s time we get involved with what’s going on downtown…Rr

    • EH says:

      I ask you… when will the police department agree to the kind of contract cuts that the rest of the staff has agreed to over the last 7 years? Never. You have to give a little to get a little.

      • SA says:

        Contract cuts for the PD you ask EH? How about the 25% reduction in staffing they have taken over the last few years, what other city department has done that? If the pd take pay cuts or other benefit cuts what will attract quality applicants to the PD? They are such a small department with virtually no opportunities for career advancement the only draw they have is decent pay with decent retirement (relative to other departments), take that away there would be no reason to work at the DMPD other than to get hired/trained and then leave for a larger agency that pays better and has opportunities for career advancement. I was recently told by a DMPD officer that within the next five years almost HALF the department is eligible or will be retiring but they aren’t hiring enough to cover the couple retirements they had last year. Sounds like the department is going to cease to exist in a couple years due to lack of hiring, but maybe that’s the city council’s plan since they can then switch to a contract with the Sheriff.

        • EH says:

          Every dept did that. In DM and practically every other city and county in the country during the recession. PLUS, they took pay cuts and eliminated COLA’s. the DMPD did not do those two things.

          Did you really think the DMPD was special or something?

    • Dave Kaplan says:

      Ah yes, another over-simplification of a complex issue.

      The hiring of personnel to deal with the increasing amount of work coming in for various developments, including large ones such as the FAA, Wesley Homes, Highline Place, and other projects, is paid for by inspection and permit fees paid for by the developers. They are paying for those positions.

      The hiring of police officers depends on our ability to bring in more money than we received last year. Currently, our budget relies on deferring approximately $800,000 from money set-aside to replace cars, computers, dump trucks, etc, and about $700,000 in one-time money from projects. That is money that doesn’t come in except as a result of constructing something. Both of these things have been required to pay for the CURRENT level of services in the City, including police services. Money did not come in as expected late last year, so we wound up with far less money to start this year. We can’t hire new officers until we are sure we have money to pay for the current ones. Simple as that.

      There is no question that we want and need to hire more officers. But only a growing economic base with on-going (instead of one-time) money will allow us to do that.

      • EH says:

        Raise the height limit and watch Des Moines become what it could be.

        • BirchCreek says:

          EH, what is the weird logic that you’ve employed to make the jump from hiring more city workers and building heights? You could seem to have an unhealthy obsession with this idea! This could make us wonder, what is your economic stake in building big buildings in the Marina District? Are you a developer, or the employee of one? Maybe with the upcoming elections you should run for the City Council with that as the main part of your platform. Then let the citizens of our town make this a kind of referendum on your ideas for developing the Marina District.

  2. Tim Lehnherr says:

    This city council has not changed from the early 80’s when at a Christmas party by the then Mayor. We heard him boast about how he ans his friends on the council stopped construction of a major hotel building just to protect his view. He lived in the same building as the Des Moines theater is today. Wow that is sure a thriving business area. From that day forward Des Moines has been doomed to a no real growth. This city should have been so much yet today they fight to get every cent they can just to keep city hall open. Maybe Federal Way or Burien will save you. Right now Des Moines is dieing a slow death because no business wants to deal with this city council or the politics and fee’s they charge.

    • I wonder if that is why the north end of the city looks like a ghost town where the old QFC sits vacant. You would think a restaurant owner would love the location? Last I heard was a Dollar store was going to occupy it.

    • wanker says:

      Is everyone reading a different article than me? I thought it said that the city was adding these 4 positions to deal with all the growth that is coming. While it may not be the specific buildings everyone wants to see growth in, it is growth. Also, if the city LEGALLY cannot use that money to pay for more officers, how do you expect them to pay for the new officers. I would love to see more police officers as much as the next person, but if we don’t have the money, we don’t, it’s simple math.

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