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Mill Creek City Council funds additional staff time to handle workload

At their regular April 23rd, 2013 meeting the City Council voted to increase the funding of the Human Resources Manager’s position and the Building Permit Coordinator’s to handle workload.
Additional funding to come from greater than anticipated revenue. Photo credit: News of Mill Creek.

Ken Armstrong began working as Mill Creek City Manager on January 1, 2013. As he settled into his new job it became apparent to him that previous decisions to defund the Human Resources Manager position and to reduce the Building Permit Coordinator’s hours were counter productive.

At their April 23rd, 2013 regular meeting the City Council agreed with Armstrong and voted 6-1 to increase the funding of the Human Resources Manager’s position from zero to 0.75 of full-time. They voted unanimously to increase the funding of the Building Permit Coordinator position from 0.80 of full-time to full-time.

Armstrong told the City Council that the City’s revenues for the first three months of 2013 were more than anticipated, and if the trend continued it was likely that these two positions could be funded without having to increase the 2013-2014 biennial budget.

Building Coordinator

The Building Coordinator staffs Mill Creek’s Building Counter where developers, builders, and residents submit building permit requests. According to Armstrong, “High quality and prompt customer service, especially for the development community, is an important component in providing an environment that promotes economic development.”

According to Armstrong’s presentation the Building Coordinator’s tasks include:

  • Processing building permit applications and issuing building permits.
  • Working jointly with Snohomish County and several other cities to implement the online permit application system Mybuildingpermit.com/ePlan. This is a long-term effort, one which will enhance customer service. This project is strongly supported and encouraged by Master Builders and others.
  • Creating and maintaining the City's Planning Entitlement database, which will be fully implemented when ePlan is launched.
  • Maintaining the permitting software.
  • Maintaining the City's Code Enforcement database (e.g. creating all cases/orders, maintaining information, photos, letters, inspection records, etc.).

Armstrong’s presentation to the Council stated why the Building Coordinator’s position was cut back, “In the City's 2011-2012 budget, the Building Department staff was reduced by 1.2 FTE. The reductions were made by eliminating one of the two Building Inspectors and by reducing the hours of the Building Permit Coordinator by eight (8) hours per week. These reductions were made because of the reduced volume of building permits being processed (as a result of the slowdown in the economy) and the need to control City expenses.”

Up until last week the Building Department’s staffing levels required the Building Counter to be closed on Fridays. Armstrong said, “We are not currently serving the public” when discussing staffing levels with the City Council. He said that there have been numerous complaints from developers, builders and residents regarding the Friday closure.

There has been a substantial uptick in Mill Creek’s building activity in 2013. Armstrong’s presentation to the City Council stated that 217 building permits have been issued this year through April 18th while 130 building permits were issued in the same period last year.

Armstrong said that increasing the Building Coordinator’s funding to full time would allow the Building Counter to be open Monday through Friday thus improving the Building Department’s customer service.

Human Resources Manager

Armstrong’s presentation said that Mill Creek did not have a Human Resources Manager prior to June of 2010, “In the 2009 - 2010 City budget, the City Council funded an HR Manager/Director at 1.0 FTE to serve as the HR Manager, Economic Development Coordinator, Public Affairs Officer, Customer Service Coordinator, Grant Coordinator, and Special Project Manager. The City Manager did not fill the position until June 20 I 0, and at that time a decision was made to fill the position as a 0.5 FTE with a more limited scope of duties.”

As part of last year’s effort to reduce the City’s 2013-2014 budget, the City Council directed the acting City Manager, Tom Gathmann, to cut operating expenses by $500,000.

Armstrong reported that eliminating funding for the Human Resources Manager position was part of that effort, “In order to meet that directive, staff proposed a budget that eliminated funding for the HR Manager position, the Planning Manager position, a Maintenance Worker position, one of the City's Police Support Officer positions, and delayed funding for one of the City's Police Officer positions.”

Armstrong believes strongly that the Human Resources Manager position is necessary and in the best interests of the City. His presentation listed the following reasons for funding the Human Resources Manager position:

  • Consistent application of employment and labor laws and policies – It’s very important that labor laws and policies are applied consistently to avoid violations. The City Attorney cannot properly perform this function.
  • Liaison for employees and management in labor disputes – This function should be performed by someone outside the employee’s direct chain of command to avoid conflict of interest and to maintain confidentiality.
  • Quicker resolution of employee and labor issues – Reduces the likelihood of legal actions being brought against the City.
  • Better handling of the collective bargaining with the City’s two unions – Avoids missteps and increases efficiency leading to better contracts.

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