CLARKESVILLE — The Clarkesville City Council will meet next week to further consider whether the city might contract with an outside firm to oversee many of its services.
During Monday night’s meeting, the council set a meeting for 5:30 Thursday, July 12, to grade the proposals from two firms who visited the city last week to learn about its operations.
While there was no public discussion of the purpose of the called meeting during Monday night’s meeting, City Manager Barbara Kesler answered questions afterward.
“We sent out a request for qualifications for a company to come in and manage the operations and maintenance of our public works, water and wastewater utilities,” Kesler told AccessWDUN. “We did that because we’ve had some turnover lately and we lost some of our directors and superintendents in those areas, and those aren’t people that are easy to replace. There are companies out there that do that, that have been doing that for a number of years, so we decided to explore that option and see what came in from that, to see if we could work from that direction.”
The city recently lost its utilities director and special projects coordinator, as well as some other non-management positions.
“We’ve had a couple of operators leave as well, at our plants, and there is just a dearth of qualified operators out there in the market,” Kesler said. “We put an ad out two weeks ago for two Class III water operators and we’ve had no responses — and we offered a good salary for them, so this is hopefully going to help us get that higher level of management back that we’re losing to turnover right now, and also give us a bigger pool to come in as operators.”
Currently, the city is functioning with existing employees stepping up and keeping things running seamlessly.
“Jonathan Randall is the interim superintendent right now while we’re looking at all this,” Kesler said. “He’s interim superintendent, so he’s taking care of the streets and the distribution and collection. Nancy Gosnell, who has been the manager of the water treatment plant, is watching over that, and Larry Thorne is over the wastewater treatment plant. So they’re all reporting directly to me now instead of reporting to Tim [Durham].”
Durham, who served most recently as special projects coordinator for the city, worked his last day for Clarkesville this week before becoming the director of water resources for Oconee County.
The management outsourcing concept would include the city’s distribution and collection, streets, public works and sanitation services. Gardens and grounds would not be included in the proposal.
“It’s a big decision,” Kesler said. “There are a lot of things that are very important to us. We’re not going to do something where our employees aren’t going to be taken care of completely. They will not be put in a situation that’s less advantageous than they’re already in, so any company that’s going to come in is going to have to make them 100-percent whole for what they have right now. And they’re going to have to have a track record of keeping these people employed for a long period of time.”