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Decision based on recent study

Recent discussions by the Columbia Heights City Council have focused on staffing issues across city government.

Most notable has been the focus on the police and fire department.

City Manager Kelli Bourgeois has been working with a consultant in helping developing a long-range plan for restructuring to bring efficiency and effectiveness, while planning for eventual succession.

To that end, the council approved the filling of two new positions – a lead records position with the police department and a special projects and events coordinator position.

The special projects position came to the forefront recently “because we’re doing more community outreach – more community events – to help the community be more informed and more engaged with what we do at the city, at all levels,” Bourgeois said.

Citing the upcoming centennial that is being celebrated in 2021, Bourgeois said the hiring of the special projects coordinator would give them a heads up in planning for the milestone.

“We started talking about that position last year and when Walt [Fehst] retired and I took the city’s manager role. We were able to restructure some things in the administration department and free up some budget to be able to create and implement that new position,” Bourgeois said.

In addition, the city is also looking to bring more efficiency into the police department’s records division by beefing up the that area of the office.

“So we hired a consulting firm last year to do a public safety staffing study for us,” Bourgeois said. “They were looking at everything ... focusing on staffing levels, quality of service, ways to be more efficient and to provide better service.”

The lead records technician was identified in that staffing study as a high recommendation and “the purpose for that is succession planning,” Bourgeouis said.

“We have Karen Olson who is our office supervisor in the police department and she oversees all of our records technicians, our IS people over there and the administration functions in the department. She has records technicians, but there is nobody in that lead and supervisory role. So, when Karen decides to retire, we have to have a plan. This lead records technician fills that plan,” Bourgeois said.

Both positions are now being addressed.

“We are currently advertising internally for the special projects position. We anticipate filling that job internally, but we’ll see what response we get for that,” Bourgeois said.

The lead records technician position is being posted this week after Bourgeois had a meeting with the police chief and office manager.

As for the other staffing concerns and how the new study affects the city’s planning process, Bourgeois said the city will continue to pick away at making changes to staffing.

“With the staffing study done and presented to the council, we’re in the process of implementation,” Bourgeois said.

“We went through a review and laid out action plans based on the recommendations. It’s not all going to happen right away and some things are not going to happen at all, and there are some things we don’t necessarily agree on with the consultants. But overall, it’s a very good, a very thorough report. There are many good recommendations. Hopefully in the next two to three years we’ll have the majority of recommendations implemented.”

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