Mon, Aug 3, 2020
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Willapa Harbor Herald • Town Crier
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Castle Rock officials split over new hire for Public Works

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Castle Rock officials are debating whether or not to hire an additional public works employee after two positions were eliminated within the department in January due to budgetary constraints.

Discussed during the Nov. 10 Castle Rock City Council meeting, some council members have expressed concerns over a preliminary proposal in the 2015 budget which includes funding for seven full-time positions within the department rather than the current six.

Public Works Director Dave Vorse explained the previous two positions had been eliminated this year so his department could dedicate more funding toward large-scale infrastructure projects and, now that such projects are either completed or under way, he feels his department is able to restore at least one of the two positions for next year.

But some officials have said they would rather wait until later in 2015 to decide whether or not the department can afford a seventh position, stating they do not feel it would be beneficial for the city to bring on a new hire then find out they would have to eliminate the position again in the near future.

"I find it real difficult to add employees and then cut employees," said Council Member Lee Kessler, stating he would have concerns about hiring a new employee "with a budget that is teetering on the balance."

Kessler suggested the council could pass a budget with funding for six positions and then consider adding a seventh half-way through 2015 when they have a clearer idea of their financial outlook. But Vorse said his department expects to undertake projects as soon as February and, without sufficient staffing, will continue having to place on hold all but the most necessary tasks.

"There's only so much that the staff can do right now," he said, stating, if the council decides to keep his department at six employees, they will have to discuss which projects continue to be placed on the backburner. "There are other things that have been let go that we can't continue to let go."

Vorse added, in response to concerns about the ability of his department to sustain a seventh position, he feels, based on current projections, it would take a significant and unforeseen financial setback before they would need to eliminate an employee next year.

When Kessler made a motion to re-balance the proposed budget to exclude the seventh position, he and Council Member Earl Queen supported the motion while Council Members Ellen Rose and Ray Teter voted against it. Council Member Mike Davis abstained, stating he desired to have more information before making a decision, leaving the matter to Mayor Paul Helenberg to cast a tie-breaking vote, which he abstained from doing as well.

It was decided the matter would be discussed in greater detail during a workshop for Monday at 6:15 p.m. Vorse indicated the workshop will also feature a proposal for increased utility rates, which the council is expected to pass in light of rising infrastructure costs as well as the anticipation of loan repayments for ongoing projects.

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