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City administrator slipping from job list

"Sympathizing with overworked department heads, Port Orchard City Council members decided last winter to hire a full-time city administrator as early as July 2000. But as that proposed benchmark nears, council members aren't any closer to recruiting a manager for the city's expanding day-to-day affairs.Instead, officials are actively looking for a full-time code-enforcement officer and pondering whether to hire three additional police officers, one of whom would replace former acting chief Dave Loflin after his planned retirement in June.Mayor Jay Weatherill said he'd rather hire additional police personnel and a code-enforcement officer than a city administrator. That's a change in Weatherill's position since last winter's budget talks. At that time, the mayor said he saw the need for a full-time manager, and council members ultimately diverted $50,000 from downtown improvement funds to make way for an administrator halfway through 2000.This is a matter of priorities, so the hiring of an administrator could be deferred, conceded Councilman Don Morrison. But he strongly supports hiring one, saying it's long overdue.Morrison said the idea is to help overwhelmed department heads coordinate policy and represent the city during intergovernmental talks which frequently occur. Morrison said the outcome of the Kitsap County comprehensive plan, passed in 1998, could have been different if a full-time city administrator was on board. He said staff members, already pulled in numerous directions, participated in some of the talks, but the city couldn't afford any full-time representation. The plan's final draft, Morrison said, designated land between McCormick Woods and the city as a rural, joint planning area. That's an ambiguous designation, and now city and county officials are overseeing a $10,000 study of that area's future.Officials estimate the city could spend roughly $100,000 annually on a full-time city administrator, including salary and benefits. Councilman Bob Geiger, chairman of the council's Finance Committee, cringes at the cost.I think we can fix the city's problems without obligating the city to a permanent, large expense, Geiger said, noting that an administrator would most likely require a secretary with an office, computer and so on. Geiger said he's not convinced that hiring a city administrator is the best use of city funds, or a way to save any time for officials such as city engineer Larry Curles.The city usually hires consultants for big jobs, so the city engineer can get the help he needs, Geiger said. Consultants, he said, have been hired to study the city's water and sewer plans. City managers would probably take department heads along to meetings, Geiger said. So I am not sure how hiring a manager could save the engineer any more time.Geiger does, however, support hiring a new, full-time code-enforcement officer--though in the past, the city only hired a part-time code-enforcement officer.Currently, assistant city planner Brett Burres also oversees code-enforcement duties, and his part-time efforts do help alleviate Curles' workload, though not all of it.Geiger thinks a code-enforcement officer could help lighten Curles' workload further, while cleaning up a city riddled with misused land, outdated signs and abandoned vehicles. At a recent council meeting, Councilman John Clauson, who also supports hiring a new administrator said he's not sure how hiring a code-enforcement officer will help lighten Curles' workload.According to city code, there are 40 definitions of public nuisances, all of which a code-enforcement officer is required to eliminate. Each nuisance could mean weeks and weeks of paperwork and calls. Officers tend to deal with derelict businesses, private property and vehicles.Morrison doesn't deny the need for code enforcement, but continues to stress the city's need for full-time management, in addition to what any part-time mayor could provide.This position isn't intended to jeopardize the mayor's duties or his position, Morrison said."

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