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Efficiency, workforce needs among motivators for reorganization of Grand Forks government

The city of Grand Forks has recently completed some of its administrative restructuring with the goals of saving money and becoming more efficient, but further reorganization is still planned for coming years.

In the past two weeks, the final touches of reorganizing the city’s Planning, Urban Development, Public Works, Information Technology and Public Information departments have been put in place, said City Administrator Todd Feland.

That restructuring is estimated to save the city $412,000.

It’s the first major restructuring for the city in several years, Feland said.

“I think we’re doing it now because we have to,” he said. Several longtime city employees have retired recently, and more are set to retire soon. They will be difficult to replace amidst the statewide workforce shortage, Feland said.

Departments and hiring

In the restructuring, the Planning and Urban Development departments have been combined into Planning and Community Development.

As part of forming the Planning and Community Development Department, the city is no longer renting office space from the Grand Forks Housing Authority, as the Urban Development employees are now housed in City Hall.

Having all of the planning and development resources in City Hall should make those processes easier for citizens, Feland said.

Also in that move, the former Urban Development director, Greg Hoover, was fired, as allowed by his contract. City Planner Brad Gengler was made the new department’s director.

No other city employees have been fired as a result of the restructuring, Feland said, but some have retired without being replaced, such as the water treatment plant superintendent and the sanitation manager.

Those departments are being managed by the reorganized public works department, which has three new managers promoted internally, Feland said.

The hiring status of two city department heads is still undecided: public works director and police chief, Feland said.

For now, Mike Kirby is serving as interim police chief and Feland is the interim public works director, having formerly held that position.

Decisions on permanent replacements for both positions will be made “in the near future,” Feland said.

Next steps

The next step in the city’s administrative reorganization is to address building and grounds, Feland said. There is currently an internal study being done on that, and within the next year there may be more reorganization, he said.

The city is also looking at remodeling City Hall.

JLG Architects was hired to conduct a study on City Hall’s organizational needs, Feland said.

There will likely be concepts for a new City Hall presented later this year and improvements will likely be made in phases over the next few years, Feland said.

The other challenge ahead for the city is finding workers for upcoming job openings, Feland said. Along with impending retirements, other areas, such as the city’s new fire station set to open in 2016, will require more staff, he said.

In effort to attract and retain workers, wages for all city employees will likely increase next year, Feland said.

 City Council members have been generally supportive when city staff has presented restructuring plans. They have praised the increased efficiency brought by restructuring.

“I think it’s great,” said Council President Dana Sande. Specifically, he said, streamlining the planning and urban development departments will increase convenience for citizens.

“Not only are the changes more efficient for the employees, but it’s making government more accessible and saving the people some money in the process,” Sande said.

He added that the hopes the City Hall remodel includes moving the city’s public information office somewhere more accessible to citizens.

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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