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City of St. Helena

The City Council gave its blessing Monday to a reorganization of the Public Works Department.

The shakeup is intended to improve efficiency, create more accountability, devote more attention to parks, streets and public buildings, and free up time for the public works director to spend on capital projects instead of day-to-day operations.

The role of the utility operations manager – a job that’s currently vacant – will be expanded to public works operations manager directly responsible for three divisions: parks/trees/open space, streets and buildings, and underground utilities.

The parks division, made up of four and a half full-time workers, will be overseen by a new parks superintendent who will report to the public works operations manager.

The reorganization will cost $177,795, with $29,900 absorbed within the current budget.

Matthew Demchuk, chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, told the City Council he was “thrilled” at the reorganization.

“I’m happy to see increased focus on the parks, which are in desperate need of maintenance,” Demchuk said.

The plan also calls for switching from monthly to bi-monthly utility billing. The bi-monthly cycle will cut down on the amount of time staff spends delivering door hangers to late payers, which currently takes 15 hours every month.

The bi-monthly billing cycle will not change customer costs. The amount paid will remain the same – it will just be collected six times per year instead of 12.

The last full monthly bill will be issued in December, followed by a partial bill in January and the first bi-monthly bill in March. Customers who wish to remain on a monthly payment cycle will be allowed to opt into an automatic payment system.

The city will also change its purchase order policy to cut down on time spent processing paperwork.

Current policy requires staff to prepare purchase order requisitions for transactions between $500 and $1,500, and purchase orders for any transaction over $1,500. The new policy would eliminate purchase order requisitions entirely and increase the purchase order threshold to $5,000.

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.