Some Waupaca Common Council members want to reinstate the city’s Board of Public Works, either temporarily or permanently.
The discussion began during the council’s May 5 meeting and is expected to continue when the council meets on Tuesday, May 19.
The council could make a decision about the idea during next week’s meeting.
Ald. Paul Hagen brought the idea forward last week.
“My discussion is limited to now, when we don’t have a director (of Public Works). Temporarily, and see where it goes from there,” he said.
John Edlebeck resigned as the city’s public works director in March after accepting a position in the village of Whitefish Bay, a Milwaukee suburb. His last day working for the city was April 30.
Waupaca’s vacant position is expected to be filled on approximately Sept. 1. Applications are due around the end of this month.
The filling of the position aligns with the four months it will take the city to recoup the cost of Edlebeck’s accumulated sick and vacation payout, which totaled $73,989.
During the transition, City Administrator Henry Veleker is serving as the department head, providing administrative support to the Public Works Department’s four divisions on an as-needed basis.
Street Superintendent Roger Hansen is the in-field lead division head, helping with the coordination of the department’s activities and projects.
On April 21, the council also approved a proposal for engineering support services from Omnni Associates on an as-needed basis at a cost not to exceed $10,000.
Last week, Hagen said reinstating the Board of Public Works would allow members of the council to advise the department during the interim.
Other council members agreed, including Steve Hackett.
Scott Purchatzke asked if the city could reconvene the council members who most recently served on the committee.
Prior to moving to its current format of two monthly council meetings, the common council had four main committees: Finance, Judiciary, Personnel and Public Works.
When the city had that format, the mayor appointed council members to the committees. There were no at-large representatives on any of the four main committees.
The committees made recommendations to the full council, which met once a month.
A debate at the Board of Public Works level about whether the city should continue adding fluoride to its drinking water became an impetus to change the format.
That discussion occurred about two years ago.
When the Board of Public Works failed to make a recommendation to the full council about the fluoride issue, city staff and council members began talking about whether there was a need for a different format.
The council ended up changing its ordinance, moving from the four committee and one council meeting a month structure to two council meetings per month.
Since then, the need for a Board of Public Works has been brought up at the council level several times, including as most recently as late last year.
That is when Hackett, Hagen and Purchatzke, all former members of that board, expressed their concerns about Edlebeck not having a committee for feedback and discussion about public works issues.
They noted the police chief, parks and recreation director, library director and development director each have committees related to their departments.
Those committees are the Police and Fire Commission, Parks and Recreation Board, Library Board and Plan Commission.
Each of those includes representatives from the common council, as well as at-large representatives.
Mayor Brian Smith told the council he liked the idea of an at-large member on a Public Works Board, which he repeated again during the May 5 meeting.
Smith said he could appoint an ad hoc committee, which would make recommendations to the council.
Ald. Dave Peterson asked if there would need to be someone from the Public Works Department on the committee.
“We have strong division heads. I would envision they would participate,” Veleker said.
At least one member of the common council sees the need to bring back the Board of Public Works permanently.
Alan Kjelland said it is a big department and is missing a board.