The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 15, 2013

Request to add city position draws questions from Joplin council members

By Debby Woodin

JOPLIN, Mo. — A request to add a city position to help administer Community Development Block Grant funds caused some Joplin City Council members on Monday to question whether it was needed or whether a detailed plan for hiring to help with tornado recovery should be presented.

The city has received two grants, one for $45 million and a second for $113 million for tornado recovery from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Use of the grant money must meet HUD specifications and be divided between low- to moderate-income areas and areas of blight.

The council was asked to authorize a project manager position in a salary range of $46,303 to $69,793 that is to be funded from the grant. The job would be assigned to the city planning and development division and the duties would be to manage, supervise and administer tornado-recovery projects the city generates with the CDBG money. A staff memo mentions that there may be a request to hire a second employee.

Councilman Bill Scearce asked why the city needs to hire and pay an employee when the council had previously approved a contract of more than $1.5 million for a national firm, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, to be the administrator.

City Manager Mark Rohr said that while the firm will manage the city’s compliance with the technical federal rules on using the grant money, the city needs someone to handle local details of the projects. Deloitte is an accounting firm that is to audit the city’s financial compliance with HUD rules. Rohr said the city also needs more staffing to handle the overall workload of the projects that will use HUD funds.

Councilman Jack Golden said he believes the additional help needs to be in the engineering department, where building plans are evaluated and approved.

Rohr said he did not disagree that more help would be needed in engineering. He said the council has informally discussed that there would need to be more workers in some city departments as the projects and those brought by the master development firm develop.

Golden said he would like to see a more detailed plan of the help the city will need. “Hiring one person is not going to cut it,” he said.

Rohr replied, “No. This is a start. There will likely be more positions,” adding that the city had set aside $1.2 million of the grants for administration costs.

The motion to authorize the position carried 6-2 with Scearce and Golden voting against it. One council member, Trisha Raney, was absent.

In other action, the council approved a contract for more than $2.6 million for street resurfacing to Blevins Asphalt Construction Company Inc.

David Hertzberg, the city’s public works director, said that amount would pay for repairing and resurfacing 50 lane miles, which represents about 6 percent of the city’s streets. Work is being done to prepare more bids for street work, he told the council. The city plans to repair and resurface about a quarter of the city’s streets this year. Many were damaged by the tornado and the subsequent use of heavy equipment for debris removal, demolition and rebuilding.

Councilman Mike Woolston asked if the work would include repairing manhole covers, which create bumps. Hertzberg said it will cover that work with more than 200 manhole covers planned for repair.

Councilman Morris Glaze asked if some of the intersections which have worn unevenly or become rutted would be ground down so that they are level. Hertzberg said they would be and that “super pave” — a higher grade of paving material — would be applied in those areas where there is heavy traffic.

The council also approved a contract for $36,300 with Olson and Associates, an engineering firm, for work on the proposed 20th Street train viaduct. Olson will have the responsibility of making sure that the plans for the bridge meet the specifications of the owner of the railroad, Kansas City Southern.

High marks

Councilman Michael Seibert said he heard lots of compliments on the new Schifferdecker Aquatic Park from those who participated over the weekend in a regional swim meet here.