The Puyallup City Council has given interim City Manager Bill McDonald the authority to begin a search for a property and facilities manager, a job that would include the responsibility of developing a comprehensive maintenance program for city-owned buildings and for attracting new tenants to unfilled spaces.
“The need is great,” said Puyallup Mayor Rick Hansen, who was in the majority of the 5-2 vote on March 5. “The need is increasing. And the need has been there for a long time.”
Council members John Palmer and Kent Boyle cast the dissenting votes. They argued the decision to fill the position immediately would be premature.
“I do think that we need to look at this function, but it seems like it’s a little bit like putting the cart before the horse on this one,” Palmer said. “We talked about organizational changes last week, but by no means have we made any decisions on organizational changes, and so I think we’re not quite ready for this. I think we need to understand funding, and I think we need to understand where we’re headed on the organization before we proceed with this.”
McDonald first presented it as a recommended option during the Feb. 26 special city council meeting. A majority showed support. The discussion of the position was a result of the 2013 budget process and of the council’s first strategic planning meeting, according to city documents.
McDonald recommended using available funds from unfilled director-level vacancies allocated within the 2013 budget. They include positions in information technology as well as parks and recreation.
“I don’t think there is any question about the need,” Palmer said. “This position was not refilled in the parks program a while ago because of the budget concerns.
“My concerns are the implications of this, and where it goes, and how we pay for it. If this (is) in lieu of hiring a parks and recreation director, I’m against it. I’m not for taking away our parks and recreation department and not having a parks and recreation director. So I don’t want this to be a backdoor way of doing that.”
Palmer added that a vote to approve the hiring of a property and facilities manager would be “paramount to not having a parks director and not having a parks and recreation department.”
Boyle proposed the option of combining a property and facilities manager position with a parks and recreation manager.
“I know there was some feeling that it didn’t happen properly before, but I think that’s where we use our city manager to go out and find someone who is qualified to do both jobs,” Boyle said. “Rather than leave the parks and recreation director position empty and do this, why not look to see if we can’t do both with the same person? That’s what I would recommend and don’t say no until we’ve at least done the process.”
Although council member John Knutsen voted to approve the action, he recommended starting the position as a four-month trial run instead of full-time.
“The old philosophy of let-it-fall-down, we’ll-build-a-new one has to be changed, but I don’t think this particular job is a 40-hour-a-week job,” Knutsen said. “I thought perhaps we could consider hiring someone for four months to catch up, get up to speed, and then re-examine to determine if it’s a 40-hour-a-week job.”
“I see it as a job that is quite time-consuming,” he said. “I don’t see how that person could possibly be a parks director (too).”
Hansen said the job of selling buildings and filling space is not as important for this position as is the job of maintenance and improving current city facilities.
“We didn’t make it a high priority before and instead we have these problems that we are now faced with, and they have become pretty acute,” Hansen said. “To not do anything now just exacerbates the problem.
“For me, this is very easy. The decision for me is we need to hire someone to do this.”
The salary range for the position is $69,000 to $89,800, said Debi Christensen, the city’s human resources director.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.