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Council approves Village manager search survey

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In the quest to find a new Village manager, Village Council at its meeting Monday, Aug. 4, approved a survey to gauge what Council members, Village staff and village residents care most about in a Village manager. The simple, five-page survey can be obtained on the Village Web site or at the Village office on Corry Street and must be returned in paper form to the Village no later than Aug. 31.

The survey was designed by Village manager search consultant Don Vermillion, of the University of Dayton, who was hired by Council last month to help with the search. Vermillion used the previous manager search process, which was led by a committee of Council members, staff and villagers, to establish a list of desirable attributes for a manager in the areas of education, experience, managerial style and personality. The survey asks respondents to rank each item in order of importance, including a section on the most important challenges facing the village. The surveys will be used to guide Council’s work in narrowing the application pool to a group of three or four, based on Vermillion’s recommendation, to invite to Yellow Springs for interviews.

“The reason we do this is because there isn’t anyone with all of these attributes, but this forces a rank of how one attribute relates to another and it forces us to consider what’s most important to this community,” Vermillion said during the meeting.

Though Council has not yet agreed on the entire search process, Vermillion recommended that Council members move quickly with the survey in order to begin weeding through the applications (due Sept. 11) at their Sept. 15 meeting and consider interviewing the top candidates during the weeks of Oct. 6, 13 and 20. Vermillion suggested Council take a full afternoon and evening with each candidate separately, allowing informal interaction with Village staff and time to walk the village, share a meal and meet with villagers.

After former Village Manager Eric Swansen left the Village with less than a month’s notice in June, the Village hired Interim Village Manager John Weithofer on a six-month contract. Because finding a manager in the next five months is critical, Vermillion recommended that the timetable conclude by selecting a manager by Nov. 3 or 17 and having the job begin as early as December of this year.

Council President Judith Hempfling advocated for more time to consider modifications to the survey before approving it, but the rest of Council agreed to amend the survey during the meeting and approve it. Hempfling also suggested tying the manager’s experience to Council’s goals and issues such as promoting economic diversity and energy conservation, but others found that adding specifics could make the survey cumbersome. Council did agree to Hempfling’s desire to add to the survey the section on challenges to the village.

Villager Al Schlueter, who chaired the last manager search committee two and a half years ago, voiced concern that the search process did not include enough opportunity for public input. Council members agreed to discuss at a later meeting the possibility of either holding a public interview process with a chance for questions for each finalist or holding a public forum with each candidate after a private interview with Council.

The Village has solicited manager applications with the International City Management Association, the Ohio CMA and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, and advertised the position in the Yellow Springs News and major newspapers in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton.

In other Council business:

• The Village met with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency last week to discuss the recent enforcement of improvements needed for the Village wastewater treatment plant to keep its operating permit. The Village proposed an aggressive compliance schedule to submit the preliminary engineering plans to OEPA by Aug. 30, and detailed construction plans by Jan. 30, 2009, according to Interim Manager Weithofer.

The OEPA had imposed a $76,000 penalty when it notified the Village last April of compliance failure, but according to Weithofer, the Village proposed that it spend that money immediately to upgrade the plant’s clarifiers, which would help bring the plant into compliance. The Village and OEPA are still discussing the issue.

Weithofer expressed concern over the cost of the entire project. First estimated by LJB engineering at about $2.2 million, Weithofer now estimates the cost at $2.6 to $2.8 million, an 18 percent increase in one year.

Weithofer said that the plant’s blowers have not been addressed and the cost of drilling is unknown because no soil borings have been taken. These unknown costs could potentially make it a $3-million project, Weithofer said.

“We’re pushing the edge of our ability to afford the project,” he said.

Weithofer said he would continue to analyze the costs with LJB and contract engineer John Eastman to get a better understanding of what will be needed to complete the project.

• Council approved a one-year contract with Woolpert Inc. to provide planning services for the Village at an estimated cost of $40,000. Weithofer expressed confidence in contractors Brad Schwab and Emi Randall, who have a combined 21 years experience and will work with Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein to address issues such as the Barr property redesign, Center for Business and Education, alley vacations, Village Station and other subdivision modifications. The contract is funded through the planning consultant line item of $100,000 in this year’s Village budget.

• Council approved a rate increase for the solid waste and yard waste removal contract with Rumpke Waste Inc., effective Oct. 1. Due to the increase in fuel costs, the new monthly rates are: for customers producing not more than 30 gallons of waste, $8.25; not more than 60 gallons, $9.25; not more than 90 gallons, $10.25. The surcharge is calculated by the Department of Energy and will change slightly each month according to changing fuel costs, Weithofer said.

Council also approved a one-year extension of the current contract with Rumpke, whose rates Weithofer said were competitive with other municipal waste collectors in the region.

• Weithofer reported that the Ohio Department of Transportation had approved the Village’s request to act as the local authority to manage the development of the Center for Business and Education.

• Council passed a resolution to assist local residents Robert and Sherry Walker, whose property was damaged by action taken by the Village on May 14 to resolve a sewer backup nearby. After an investigation led by former manager Swansen found that damages were caused by the Village, Council agreed to pay the Walkers $1,900 to remediate the situation.

• Council approved a resolution to renew the annual contract with Village Solicitor John Chambers.

• Council approved the appointments of local residents Heather Wright and Jason Toddy to the Village Human Relations Commission. Wright is a professor of political science at Wittenberg University, where she is also a member of the Women’s Studies Committee. Toddy, who works at the Lebanon Correctional Institution, recently moved to Yellow Springs with two young children because he liked the community, according to Council’s liaison to the HRC, John Booth.

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