Tuesday, February 09, 1999

Council splits on public works director

Enquirer Contributor

        CRESCENT SPRINGS — For one of the few times since taking office last month, members of city council dissented over an issue.

        By a 4-2 vote, council on Monday created a position for a full-time public works director. Council also voted 5-1 to amend the salary range from $35,000-$48,000 a year to $30,000-$44,000.

        Mayor Claire Moriconi said she has a candidate in mind — former Police Chief George Ripberger, who retired last month and was also a supervisor in the public works department. She said she asked Mr. Ripberger to accept the job.

        “Yes, I would be happy to take the position,” Mr. Ripberger said.

        Mr. Ripberger said he planned to meet with Mrs. Moriconi this week to discuss a salary. Council still has to approve the appointment.

        A 23-year veteran of the police department, Mr. Ripberger was chief from 1992 until last month.

        Councilmen Rick Wessels, John Mullen, Tom Vergamini and Jim Collett voted for both the ordinance and the salary amendment. Councilman Larry Gronefeld voted against both, and Councilman Nick Berry voted in favor of the amendment and against the ordinance.

        Mr. Gronefeld wondered how the city could consider hiring Mr. Ripberger or anyone else now when it could not afford former City Administrator George Stewart.

        “This is bad timing,” Mr. Gronefeld said. “It's a lousy trick.”

        Said Mrs. Moriconi: “There were no tricks, and I resent you saying there were tricks.

        “I've known Larry for about 20 years, I don't think it was personal. We've never had any trouble.”

        Mr. Mullen said incoming council members had met several times between the November election and when they were sworn in Dec. 31, in part to discuss the new job. Mr. Gronefeld said he missed them because he was sick, but Mr. Mullen said Mr. Gronefeld was invited.

        The public works director's job is a change in the city's organizational structure. The ordinance also calls for promoting Police Lt. Mike Ward to police chief.

        Mr. Berry said the city should first determine how much street repairs and other expenses will cost before hiring a public works director.

        But Mr. Mullen said the move does not add anyone to the payroll and that it saves the city money.

        Under the old structure, the city administrator was between the mayor and the police department, public works, finance and administration and building and zoning departments.

        The new setup puts Mrs. Moriconi and council over the police, public works and finance and administration departments. The public works de partment is responsible for streets, parks and recreation, building and zoning.

        Mr. Mullen said the new setup gives the city a full-time police chief and saves the city about $61,000 by eliminating the city administrator job and moving Mr. Ripberger from hazardous duty to nonhazardous duty status.

        Mr. Ripberger said the city needs to develop a uniform policy manual and better training and preventive maintenance programs.

        In other action, council:

        • Heard an inspection report from the Florence engineering firm David E. Estes Engineering that said there are between 2 and 4 inches of silt in the first 20 feet of the lake at the new city park at the corner of Buttermilk Pike and Collins Road.

        “The color of the water at the portion of the lake closest to the park is light brown; (whereas) the rest of the lake was green (which is typical lake water color in this area),” the report read.

        The report said there was no evidence of erosion control devices used when the lake was excavated.

        • Appointed Gary Smith to replace Bill Zeck to the city's ethics board.

        City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Coburn received the Third Sustaining Membership in the Academy of Advanced Education from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. Ms. Coburn became just the second Kentuckian to receive the award.


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