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Filling DPW superintendent, finance director positions a priority in Fraser

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 26, 2020

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FRASER — Administrators and city officials in Fraser are in the process of filling vacancies at key positions.

Currently, the finance director and public works superintendent positions need to be filled. The finance director position is currently open, while the Department of Public Works is being manned by interim Superintendent Nick Schaefer, who took over in November 2018 following the retirement of former DPW Superintendent B.J. Van Fleteren.

On Feb. 14, Fraser Mayor Mike Carnagie said between about six and a dozen applications had been received by the city in relation to the DPW superintendent position. As a way to save time and taxpayer money, those applications will be vetted by the Fraser Department of Public Safety prior to the commencement of the interview process.

The superintendent makes between $60,000 and $85,000.

Carnagie, who said the process should get off the ground in March, is looking for an array of qualifications in the next superintendent: good experience; finding new ways of operating; and understanding that properly utilizing manpower in a small city is vital to addressing residents’ concerns.

“Nick (Schaefer) has done a really good job at this point,” Carnagie said. “I don’t see anything negative. But we need a future DPW to be more proactive in the city, (to take care of) things that kind of need to be addressed and not wait for residents to complain or have issues. Sometimes the funds aren’t there to do that, but I’ve always been a believer in department heads to be proactive.”

He added that he wants a superintendent who is “vested in the community they work for…and really care and understand their job is servicing the people.”

Schaefer took over as interim superintendent in November 2018. He acknowledged the city is “just doing their due diligence” in relation to the job search. He said, “this job means a lot to me.”

“(The city is) just looking at somebody to keep the department moving forward and helping it evolve,” Schaefer said. “I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing. … I don’t think it’s anything personal against me. I want to stay in the position. I like where I work, and the city I’m doing it for.”

He said his department has 10 full-time employees, along with a supervisor and secretary. There are anywhere between six to eight seasonal employees.

Schaefer was originally hired with the department in 2005, when there were 17 full-time employees and 10 to 12 seasonal employees. The most employees he ever recalled was 22, including two supervisors.

“What they don’t see is what we have to deal with on a daily basis,” he said, in addition to providing core services and infrastructure repairs. “Now we’re more reactive, we’re fixing stuff as it fails and catching it before it does.”

The process for the finance director position will mirror the DPW position, in terms of DPS background checks. At press time, Carnagie said there were about a handful of applicants.

That administrative position has historically been combined with the treasurer position, due to what the city says is a way “to consolidate resources and ensure financial oversight by one administrative officer.”

Former Finance Director Tim Sadowski resigned on Dec. 21, 2019. The mayor praised Sadowski’s “accurate” numbers and being upfront with city officials.

“I think (Sadowski) was one of the best finance directors I’ve seen since I’ve been involved in the city,” he said. “He didn’t sugarcoat it, as far as finances and numbers.”

At press time, council had not decided whether the future director will work on a part-time or full-time basis. Carnagie said the position is under advisement, due to other cities having finance directors on a part-time basis.

He said Fraser “could probably get by” with a part-time director, including someone who is involved in grant writing and can write and apply for grants — similar to how DPS currently performs as a means of the city being rewarded funds for different causes.

Consideration for proposals, whether contractual or otherwise, will take into account potential compensation and maximizing cost savings for the city.

Also, Carnagie noted that residents will soon have the opportunity to watch fiscal year budget-related discussions on the city’s local cable channel, and can reach out to department heads with any questions they may have.

Fraser’s fiscal year budget runs from July 1 to June 30.

He said Fraser’s general fund is “healthy,” maintaining over 25% fund balance — “which is very good for a city our size.” It is also in good shape in terms of meeting debt obligations, he added.

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