Spending pause will force city departments into a bit of juggling

Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich’s directive to employees earlier this month to postpone new spending for the first quarter of the year was intended to act as a safeguard in
the event city sales-tax revenue slides.

Department heads say the three-month delay in hiring new employees and capital expenditures will result in some additional equipment-maintenance costs and employees being diverted from their main duties to lend assistance in other areas, which could bump up overtime. But in general, they say, the effect on day-to-day operations should be minimal.

Here’s a look at how individual departments are being affected:

CITY ADMINISTRATION

Deputy City Manager Rich Englehart said the administration is holding off on filling the one position it is scheduled to add this year: an information systems trainer who will instruct employees in software usage.
He said if the position remains on hold longer than three months, the city could end up with fewer training classes and would have to prioritize which ones to fund.
Officials are putting off a project to upgrade audio and video equipment and reconfigure seats in the City Hall auditorium.

FIRE DEPARTMENT

The biggest hit to firefighters and paramedics is the fact the department will not immediately bring on an EMS training coordinator to assist EMS Division Chief John Howard.
“We have to dedicate a lot of time to conduct training for our personnel to keep their certifications to provide emergency medical services,” said Jim Bright, operations officer for the Fire Department. “That’s a big area of need for us that we get that position filled.”
Without that additional, dedicated employee, the department will continue to use on-duty shift coordinators and other employees who have to take on training in addition to their primary responsibilities. Bright is quick to point out, “That’s probably not the best solution.”
The department also will hold off purchasing three new non-emergency vehicles.

PARKS AND RECREATION

Director Rob Schoeber said the department is making do without three new equipment operators, although the impact is less severe now during the winter than it would be during the summer.
Officials will have to wait to build and open a new shop at the Orchard Mesa Cemetery. The city is proceeding with designing and bidding the $590,000 project but won’t award a contract until the spending freeze is lifted.

POLICE DEPARTMENT

Authorities hired three 911 dispatchers, given the nature of their work and the current shortage of employees in the dispatch center. But they held off on hiring another dispatch center supervisor, an investigations sergeant and a corporal to work in professional standards and training. Without the corporal, other officers will have to help with police academy and on-the-job training, according to Deputy Police Chief Troy Smith.
In addition, Smith said the department is waiting to replace or add four or five vehicles.

PUBLIC WORKS AND PLANNING

The planning division will see the greatest impact in terms of personnel, as the positions of three employees who recently left will not be filled immediately, Public Works and Planning Director Tim Moore said.
Major capital projects such as the new 29 Road-Interstate 70 Business Loop interchange and the Independent Ranchmen’s Ditch flood-control project will get under way or be completed. But a plan to complete the stretch of F 1/2 Road between 24 and 24 1/2 roads is on hold.
The city plans to partner on the $1.7 million project with the developers of Fairway Plaza, a 19-acre commercial project that will be built on 24 1/2 Road.

UTILITIES AND STREET SYSTEMS

Managers will wait to convert two of five employees, who work part-time to fill street cracks, into full-time workers. But Utilities and Street Systems Director Greg Trainor said that delay shouldn’t affect the city much because the bulk of that work isn’t done until the weather warms up.
Trainor said the department will postpone the replacement of several trucks, including a crack-filling truck. He also is contemplating whether to delay replacing a trash truck or asking Kadrich if they can buy it immediately.


VISITOR AND CONVENTION BUREAU

Employees in this department are probably the least affected by the delay in spending. With the economy tanking and the city tightening its purse strings, Director Debbie Kovalik believes she and her employees’ roles are pivotal, as they convince tourists and investors to spend money in Grand Junction.
“Our efforts are more important now than ever,” she said.
Kovalik said a couple capital projects that cost less than $30,000, including installing low-flow toilets at Two Rivers Convention Center, are being put off until the second quarter.


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