City considers making street, parks one department

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Huntingburg is considering consolidating its street and parks departments into one department.

The Huntingburg Common Council discussed the idea at its Tuesday meeting and agreed to research the possibility.

“I can see why this should be entertained. I don’t see a downside to looking a this,” Councilman Steve McPherron said. “The city needs to remain open and nimble to transitions.”

If any consolidation plan moves forward, the two departments would be combined under one superintendent. But there will not be a reduction in staff, Mayor Denny Spinner said.

“The goal of this proposal is the realignment of work within the combined departments,” he said, “and that all current employees will have positions offered to them.”

Spinner told the council that consolidating the two departments would save the city money. City revenues have decreased as a result of COVID-19, he said.

“I have been looking closely at ways for our city government to become more efficient,” he said, “while still providing the high quality of service our citizens are accustomed to and deserve. These are concerns that need to be addressed now, but also going forward as a community.”

The number of parks in the city has increased, which means more work for those in the department. “Simply adding more personnel, especially during challenging economic times, is not the proper response,” Spinner said. “We need to focus our resources the city has to ensure the high reputation of the city parks in Huntingburg is maintained.”

With that, both departments could help with different tasks in each department’s areas of work. “Much of the labor intensive work done in the parks department was very similar to the work being done by the street department,” Spinner said.

Councilman Jose Dubon asked if workers would have to be trained to learn how to do tasks in the other department. Spinner said some tasks are able to be done by different people in different departments and some can be cross-trained, if needed.

Park Board President Mike Fulkerson said that having more workers available would help the park crew.

“The crew is good at what they do. But the crew is so small,” he said. “They’re taking care of this problem and that problem, but not making anything better for the future. When you have a team of people available, that’s going to help tremendously.”

Departments being consolidated under one superintendent is not unusual for Huntingburg, Spinner explained. He noted that the gas and electric departments operate as the energy department with one superintendent and chief crews. The same thing happens with the water department, with crew chiefs operating the distribution system and treatment facility.

There would be many details that need to be worked on, including department structure, board structure and administering the budget, Spinner explained. There will be input from the departments’ leaders and members of the council, public works board and park board before anything is finalized, he said. Councilman Glenn Kissling said he also wants to hear public feedback about the idea.

The council also:

• Approved the city’s 2021 budget, which will go to the state for final review.

• Approved an ordinance to establish city employees’ salaries for 2021. Employees will receive a 1.5 percent increase.

• Set trick-or-treat hours for 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. The council also stated that everyone should follow the Dubois County Health Department’s guidelines for trick-or-treating this year. Some of those guidelines are wearing masks, practicing social distancing, parents carrying hand sanitizer for their children to use often, residents giving out pre-packaged treats only (no homemade goods), and residents turning off their porch lights if they don’t want trick-or-treaters.

• Heard that the fire department will not hold its annual Halloween event for the community due to COVID-19.

• Introduced the first reading of an ordinance for removing parking spaces on the west side of Geiger Street just south of Fourth Street, to make sure that cars have space to drive north and south of the street. Council members decided to wait before making its final vote on the matter; they wanted to give the public a chance to contact them if they had concerns about the change.

• Approved an ordinance that updates the city’s truck routes.

• Set up the Soccer Field Improvement Fund, which will be used to make improvements to the soccer field that sits near the wastewater department. The wastewater department and Youth Soccer League are working together to maintain the field and work on drainage issues. Commonwealth Engineers has given a $10,000 donation for field improvements. Kissling added that donations to the fund would be welcomed from anyone.

• Heard that Tripsavvy, an online vacation and travel advice site, named Huntingburg as the Best Small Town in Indiana.




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