The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

November 22, 2013

Department undergoes changes

By Scott Levine Herald Associate Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — The city of Clinton is looking for a new image regarding the Building and Neighborhood Services department, and if the last three months are any indicator, they’re happy with the results.

City Administrator Jessica Kinser sent a memo to City Council members in July regarding a temporary change to the Building and Neighborhood Services that would take effect in August. The structure altered the chain of command and put Clinton Fire Department Battalion Chief Creighton Regenwether in charge of the department.

Kinser and Clinton Fire Chief Mike Brown said the department has handled complaints and inspections better during the past three months.

“There was no accountability and credibility,” Kinser said. “It was not the best customer service. The employees were not presenting the best credibility by being trained on what to do.”

The recommendations by Kinser and Brown to the City Services committee on Wednesday weren’t enough to make the change permanent Jan. 1 as requested by Kinser. The committee forwarded the proposal to the next Clinton City Council meeting, but At-Large Councilman John Rowland wants more time to formulate questions about the change.

Rowland said he received information regarding a permanent change on Monday.

“There’s no need to move quickly on this,” Rowland said. “I want to hear…what the new people want to say and the current Council members.”

The committee discussed keeping the changes in place on a temporary basis until closer to when the budget for 2014-15 begins in July.

The change putting Regenwether in charge happened in conjunction with moving Building and Neighborhood Services Director Mike Harmon to Inspector/Assistant Code Official. With this new structure, Kinser is asking the council to amend a resolution made earlier this year that paid Harmon more money because he was performing duties out of rank. Also, the budget for the Building and Neighborhood Services would decrease since the new structure includes the elimination of one position, the building inspector. This position was vacated in April.

With this change and the decreased pay for Harmon, the move is estimated to save approximately $40,000 in wages and $30,000 in benefits.

“We’re down one position and not adding to the fire department,” Kinser said. “We were needing to move forward with changes.”

Kinser and Brown referenced cross-training as being one of the biggest contributors to better customer service.

“One of the objectives of the temporary reorganization was to make sure a customer was never told that a question could not be answered or an inspection could not occur because someone was out of town for an extended period of time,” Kinser wrote in a memo to council members. “The process of cross-training and sharing responsibility as a team has already started and is moving forward in a positive way …”

Another part of the structural alteration includes a name change, something Brown feels is necessary to eliminate bad feelings toward the department. But the new name didn’t conjure up positive feelings from committee members. Kinser’s recommendation of Inspections, Compliance and Enforcement, or ICE, is up for debate after Ward 3 Councilwoman Bev Hermann pointed out the similarity to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement moniker.

“We need to be careful with what acronyms we use,” Hermann said.

The name, along with the other portions of the proposal, will be discussed during Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting.