OCEAN CITY — The reconfiguration of the Public Works Department has less to do with money than it does with manpower, but town officials will be quick to tell you that the money saved is more than welcome.
The town of Ocean City announced this week that its Public Works Department has not only moved some people around but it will also be merging some entire divisions together and in the process will save almost $200,000.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said that he saw an opportunity to merge several divisions together when he realized that he was about to lose an integral part of his supervisor staff, Bruce Gibbs, who is retiring from his Superintendent of Maintenance position after 35 years.
“I could have very easily have just replaced Bruce’s position, although replacing someone like Bruce is hard to do, but I wanted to look at what better way to run the whole division of public works, and that’s why I made these changes,” said Adkins.
Essentially, Adkins will eliminate two upper management positions, move some proverbial desks around for some employees and join together the water and wastewater departments, as well as putting the construction, solid waste and maintenance divisions under one roof.
The consolidation of these divisions will result in the elimination of the positions of Superintendent of Maintenance and Superintendent of Construction.
The estimated $90,000-$100,000 in general fund savings will come from Gibbs’ salary, with the $10,000 fluctuation in savings dependent on whether the council decides to give Jim Parsons, who will become Chief Deputy Supervisor of Utilities, a pay increase for his substantial increase in duties.
Parsons will now oversee the water and wastewater divisions, which are considered to be amongst the most vital components to how the town operates.
Current Public Works Maintenance Assistant Superintendent John Van Fossen will become Maintenance Manager, current Solid Waste Superintendent Woodrow Shockley will become Solid Waste Manager, and current Public Works Construction Assistant Superintendent Bill Bratten will become Construction Manager.
Other notable employee lateral movements include Senior Project Manager Dick Malone filling Gibbs’ position and Dean Dashiell, who brings 40-plus years of construction experience to the table, taking over Malone’s old post.
The other $100,000 that is estimated to be saved by this reconfiguration will come from the water and wastewater department, stemming directly from a few positions that won’t be filled either.
“Water and wastewater both had superintendents and both had assistants superintendents,” said Adkins. “Unfortunately, and I’m not sure if the public knows this, but both assistant superintendents passed away this year, one of a heart attack and one from brain cancer, so we’ve had to try to delegate their duties amongst our current employees rather than re-hire their positions.”
Adkins noted that these moves were not only doable but probably the most efficient due to the fact that construction efforts are at an all-time low, and more than likely will stay that way for a few years, and that moving people around to maximize the so-called talent in the departments made the most sense.
“I’m not sure if it’s an adage or a cliché, but they say ‘the best defense is a good offense’ and I would rather make offensive moves on behalf of this department when they present themselves to position ourselves for worse days to come, because no one knows how long things are going to be challenging around here,” said Adkins.
With the town in the midst of a hiring freeze, and more than 30 positions left unfilled, most of which in Adkins’ division, this move looks to be a case of making the most with the cards in your proverbial hand. Adkins said, however, that these moves should make the entire department run more efficiently.
“It was not a budget thing, and it wasn’t forced upon me, nor did anyone ask me to do it,” said Adkins, “When I looked at the opportunities as they presented themselves, whether in best of times or in times of economic turmoil, I would have done this either way.”