Huntington Council Declines to Contract Janitoral Service at Police Department

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Huntington Council Declines to Contract Janitoral Service at Police Department

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – City council’s aggressive Saturday push for additional paving dollars came with a degree of consistency.  At the budget hearing, council members  tossed  prospective ‘new’ positions (including a graduate assistant) but  restored dollars for two positions slated for layoff --- one due to security; the other as Most Valuable to citizens and council.

A proposal for contractual cleaning of the Police Department did not bode well with council due to security issues related to investigative notes on desks. Former chairperson Jim Insco began the inquiry.

INSCO:  How do you feel about the Goodwill contract?

POLICE CHIEF SKIP HOLBROOK: Obviously we think the [maintenance] position is important. When asked to make cuts, we went line by line. Our approach was what position would have the least impact on police operations. The Goodwill contract will provide 20 hours of [janitorial services]. We will make do.

INSCO: I’m concerned with the ‘we will make do.’

The councilman then referred to a 2002 police department tour in which he saw “trash to the ceiling” and questioned the chief concerning security risks in the trash or on detective’s desks. In addition, he asked Holbrook about the need to buzz people in to the police department.

HOLBROOK: We have investigative information in open view and we would not want to share that with civilians.

Holbrook said the current maintenance employ is not a security risk, but  although “we used Goodwill for a three month period and they did outstanding work,” explaining that their presence was limited to when , in Holbrook’s words, “we were there.”

Council member Frances  Jackson asked about savings.

Brandi Jacobs-Jones. Director of administration and finance,  indicated “salary and uniform allowance of $34,000 a year and the expense of health insurance.”

Council member Scott Caserta then echoed a prior statement by Steve Williams to put the maintenance position back in the budget.

Nate Randolph noted that the current maintenance employee takes on tasks beyond janitorial, such as cleaning water out of the basement or minor elevator repairs. “The money save would be spent back on other contracted services.”

Jim Insco then inquired of the administration, “why don’t we utilize Goodwill in [City Hall]?” His proposal was to “free [current] people up in the afternoons.”

Ms. Jacobs-Jones said that “we are looking for a hybrid relationship” with Goodwill concerning City Hall maintenance. A proposal is being put together.

MAYOR’S OFFICE

Council voted to restore funding for Jimmy Johnson’s , constituent services liaison position.  The unanimous vote in favor was a testament to the successes scene by creating the position two years ago.

Council finance chair Steve Williams said, “Jimmy Johnson has made this work. If we gave out a most valuable personnel award, it would have Johnson’s picture on it. We didn’t elect the Mayor to go out and look at pot holes.”

Insco agreed that through Johnson’s service the citizens of Huntington “get an answer back quicker than before,” usually in 24 hours or less.

 Jim Ritter told council, “I like the memo and paper trail. When I need something , all I do is call him. If you want to see how he works, get in his truck and go with him.”

MORE FLEXIBILITY

Council agreed to a change in the job descriptions of those working in Room 20, where citizens come to pay fees. Finance Director Deron Runyon had suggested that instead of the four individually described positions that their duties be encompassed through Revenue Service Representatives.

“This will give us major flexibility,” Runyon explained and no one will lose their job through the reorganization.  However, an accounts payable clerk position will be left unfilled.

Council also balked at creating a compliance supervisor position when eight other positions stand to be eliminated.  The money was removed from inspection/compliance and added to contingency.

PLANNING

 

Allocating $6,000 for a  graduate assistant for the planning department was  sliced. Council felt it would send the wrong signal. However, during the discussion, the possibility of gaining the money through CDBG dollars was mentioned by Ms. Jacobs-Jones.

Insco indicated that the annual CDBG fund allocation hearing comes March 17. He hoped that with the brighter future for the Huntington Municipal Development Authority from recent deal closings the CDBG funds will not have to pay the Kinetic Park loan, like this year.