The city’s search for a permanent public works director could be in its final week, city spokesperson George Talbot told Lagniappe Tuesday, July 9.
A panel of employees and subject matter experts, including a public works director from another Alabama city, Talbot said, have narrowed a nationwide search down to five local and out-of-state candidates.
“They are very impressive candidates,” Talbot said. “We hope to select one within the next week.”
Talbot would not release the names of candidates at this point, but he did confirm that John Peavy, the current interim director and former City Council member would remain with the city.
“He’s doing a great job,” Talbot said. “He will continue with the city.”
The candidates were selected in a similar fashion to the way Mobile Fire-Rescue Chief Mark Sealy was picked in 2017. The process has led to good results, so far, Talbot said.
“We have a great pool to choose from,” he said. “I think the mayor is feeling good about our options.”
For about a year prior to the start of 2019, public works employees lodged complaints about working conditions and treatment at the hands of superiors within the department. In January of this year, a special counsel hired by the City Council released a report that found those complaints had merit.
One supervisor in particular was caught on tape getting into a verbal altercation with a garbage-truck driver, according to the report. In another example from the report, Special Counsel Patrick Sims said supervisors were known to write-up employees for frivolous reasons.
While Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Peavy questioned some of what was in the report at the time and instead touted the administration’s own investigation into the issues within the department, Talbot said the issues would be taken into account when selecting a leader.
Wesley Young, president of the advocacy group for the city’s public works employees, told Lagniappe he hopes Stimpson’s office chooses someone who will be fair to the employees.
“I hope it is someone who treats them as men and women and not second-class citizens,” Young said.
He also is hopeful the director is someone who will provide employees with enough manpower and
equipment to get the job done.
On Tuesday, the Mobile City Council heard from Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Lami about a proposed initiative to provide peer-support services to the city’s firefighters.
The resolution, which will be voted on next week at the earliest, per council rules, would fund a three-year contract with Veterans Recovery Resources to provide training to firefighters to serve as peer counselors for others suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues.
“The idea is to help provide mental health [support] to first responders,” Lami said.
While traditional therapy is great, Lami said, it sometimes doesn’t work as well for first responders. In contrast, a peer might be a better counselor, he said, because he or she offers a similar perspective of having been in the same tough situations.
The council also requested a committee meeting on removing the extra 1-foot of flood elevation required by city ordinance. Administration officials had requested the amendment after hearing concerns from downtown developers awaiting the local approval of new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps.
As Stimpson explained to councilors, in some cases the base flood elevation will be increased, making the extra foot the city requires on top of what FEMA demands unnecessary. Deputy City Attorney Florence Kessler said FEMA doesn’t require the extra foot, but since it’s already in an ordinance, the city must abide by it.
Councilman Joel Daves announced a second ad-hoc committee meeting to discuss the disposition of city property. It will take place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16.
On Tuesday, July 23 at 2 p.m., the public services committee will meet to discuss the recent street assessment, and the capital improvement program committee will meet at 1 p.m. on July 30 for an update on the program.
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