Work plan for Port Townsend lacks workers

Staffing, bidding a challenge

Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro.

Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro.

PORT TOWNSEND — The thread running through the 2022 work plan for the city of Port Townsend: We have scores of projects and priorities, but not enough workers to tackle them yet.

City Manager John Mauro laid out the examples during the City Council’s workshop meeting last Monday, delivering a half-hour presentation on various departments’ priorities this year. The council members — including newcomers Aislinn Diamanti, Libby Wennstrom and Ben Thomas — said little after Mauro had finished; they had in their agenda packets his 31-page report for re-reading.

That “2022 work plan workshop” document can be found at www.cityofpt.us under Government, then Agendas & Videos, then 2022 archives.

For tonight’s City Council meeting — online at 6:30 p.m. — the agenda materials can be found under Upcoming Meetings & Agendas.

“If there’s one major theme to this (work plan),” Mauro said, it’s that “it’s been a long race,” or more like a mountain climb. He added that he doesn’t want to use COVID as an excuse — it’s just the reality.

“We’re down roughly 14 full-time-equivalent staff,” Mauro told the council.

“The work has not decreased … everyone’s quite tired,” of running the marathon.

Public Works Director Steve King “is oversubscribed about five times,” the city manager said.

With no parks and recreation director, the parks department has come under the Public Works umbrella. Two of the positions open there are project manager and civil engineer.

In the Development Services Department, director Lance Bailey resigned last month to become the city of Monroe’s director of Community Development.

In the finance department, Nora Mitchell, director of finance and administrative services, will retire March 1.

In the Port Townsend Police Department, Mauro said, four hires have been made — but there have also been retirements, so staffing is an ongoing struggle there, too.

In his work plan document, Mauro outlined priorities for each department.

Among the projects that top the list:

• Recruit and launch a Race and Social Justice Advisory Board made up of local residents;

• Move forward with the Evans Vista affordable housing project, using a $1.3 million state grant;

• Expand police officer recruiting and retention efforts;

• Develop the city’s Parks Strategic Vision and parks volunteer program;

• At the Port Townsend Library, continue to build the collection with attention to equity, diversity and inclusion;

• Develop a vision, with public input, for the future of the municipal golf course;

• Unplanned projects, which could include plumbing repairs.

King, when asked about utility work that necessitates the hiring of a Public Works project manager, said he’d hoped to do that this winter, but “the hiring scene is a challenge.”

“The bidding scene is a challenge,” Mauro added, noting the city issued a request for bids on building a well at the golf course, “and got nothing back.”

This is “brutal, to be completely transparent.”

At the same time, Mauro emphasized the need to be agile when it comes to unexpected needs. Water lines fail. Snow falls in large quantities. The city work plan has to allow for surprises and changes in priorities.

It’s “a lot of information; there are some downer points there,” Mayor David Faber said, adding he appreciated Mauro’s candor.

Deputy Mayor Amy Howard, for her part, cast the complex document in a positive light. The council started working on the 2022 plan at a workshop back in July, she noted.

“We did set out a very ambitious work plan,” which to her mind is the way to go.

It’s better to have a broad plan with a lot of exciting projects in it, she said, than a small one with a few safe bets.

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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