Snoqualmie City Council voted 4-3 on Monday, Oct. 14, against a merger of the city’s public works and parks departments.
Council members Maria Henriksen, Bob Jeans, Charles Peterson and Jeff MacNichols voted against agenda bill 213, with members Bryan Holloway, Kingston Wall and Kathi Prewitt for the merger.
City administration had proposed merging the jobs and adding a utilities manager, necessary to meet state codes and, possibly, an events coordinator.
The city has been without a parks director for about a year-and-a-half, since Gwen Voelpel left to become assistant city manager for SeaTac. Dan Marcinko has held down both his original public works and parks jobs.
In a long discussion Monday, Henriksen led the charge against the merger, saying she wanted a strong, fully dedicated parks and recreation leader.
She counted off the city’s 36 parks and dozens of tennis and basketball courts, soccer and baseball fields, and its 25 miles of trail.
“I want someone who is focused on funding the repair and replacement of those assets,” Henriksen said. “I want someone who is focused on the Y partnership, and is going to continue to ensure its success, and some to take the lead on the city’s end for the expansion of that facility, which will mostly like be more complicated this go-round and involve a bond…. I want to buy a dedicated, full-time public works director with his full attention on the department and the multimillions of investment we have there.”
“We are going to go back and keep it at status quo,” City Administrator Bob Larson said Friday.
During Monday’s discussion, he had stressed the savings from combining both director into one and putting other duties, such as events planning, onto other staffers. Many duties, he said, do not merit a director’s pay grade.
While the city was successful under the old, two-director model, Larson said the merger was an attempt to bring a different approach—driving duties that the director normally would have handled to a part-time or specialist level.
“It wouldn’t have been proposed if we felt it couldn’t be successful,” Larson said. “It’s about the organizational culture. You create expectations and you manage to those and you hold people accountable.”
Now, city administration will review the job description for the parks and recreation director, and return with an updated plan for council to consider, possibly one with fresh emphasis on event planning and recreation.
There is still a need for hires in public works and utilities.
“We’re trying to find the best combination,” said Larson.