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The resignation of City Administrator George Ambrose last month has left the Salmon City Council with many decisions to make on who makes the decisions.

At the June 5 meeting of the council a lengthy discussion was held on whether or not to hire a Public Works Consultant just for specific projects or full time, or whether or not the city needs to hire a City Administrator. The issue at hand is the massive water treatment plant project that is underway. Ambrose had the background expertise and experience to oversee project details and he was doing that. No one on the council or the city staff has that expertise.

Councilman Fred Waidely pointed out the need to have experienced supervision and quality control of the over three million dollar treatment plant project. He used a project change order to be approved later that evening as a case in point. He said change orders are about something that wasn’t in the original contract which is going to cost more, and what circumstances led to the extra expense. Waidely said in this case Ambrose was still on duty at the time the circumstance occurred that caused the needed change order and that Ambrose had overseen it. There is a project engineer from Keller and Associates but Waidely said he is not here that often and the only other resource is local Building Inspector Gary Goodman who already has the whole county to oversee. Waidely said the city needs a Public Works Consultant.

Councilman Jim Baker reviewed the city’s recent history saying Ambrose brought with him needed building, contracting administration and engineering expertise which he provided on a five day a week basis. Two years ago at Ambrose’s request his work schedule was reduced to two days a week.

The projects in need of oversight at present are the water treatment plant, the pathway to City Park and the Fulton Street/Courthouse Drive sidewalk-curb and gutter replacement. Baker said an intermediary is needed to provide needed communications between the city and the contractors. Baker said options include; entertain a consulting proposal from George Ambrose, hire a full time supervisory/technical person or employ an expensive long-distance consulting engineering firm.

Councilman Jim Bockelman suggested arranging individual service agreements per project as needed with start and completion dates.

Councilman Jesse Bender expressed other concerns. “I have a lot of heartburn, over us seeing an employee resign and then immediately come back at a pay much higher than his previous pay. I think that is damaging to our employee morale.” She said it encourages a behavior she sees as unacceptable. Bender said the first question the council needs to answer is does it need a City Administrator.

Councilman Ken Hill said the ideal would be to find a semi-retired, experienced person to work part time to oversee the city’s projects. Waidely pointed out that it is a common practice to retire from the federal government then immediately return to work for more money as a consultant, Councilman Jim Kluesner agreed with Bender that rehiring a city employee, for the second time, at a higher rate of pay does not sit right.

Waidely reiterated the point of the discussion was to decide if the city needs a Public Works Consultant, not whom the consultant should be. For the short term he reminded the council that Keller and Associates might be interested in providing oversight quality control on the water treatment plant upgrades which is Waidely’s prime concern.

The discussion ended with a decision to send the issue to the Public Works Team and schedule a meeting the following day between Mayor Leo Marshall, Waidely and Public Works Superintendent Harry Shanafelt.

Later in the meeting the council approved a $24,568 change order for the water treatment plant upgrade project. The unexpected expense was related to a effluent filter building piping modification bypass and a pipe elevation adjustment between the control structure and filter feed lift station. The council also approved a progress payment to Dick Anderson Construction Inc. for $212,800. Both payments had been previously approved by Keller and Associates as well as Ambrose.

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