Increase to city engineer’s role discussed, engineer doesn’t want it

At a committee meeting last Tuesday night, council members discussed an amendment to the charter proposed by Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler which would place Director of Recreation Rob Spagnola under the direction of the City Engineer Richard Miller rather than Mayor Ann Thane. Haztenbuhler also previously introduced a resolution that would place the Supervisor of Public Works under the direction of the engineer rather than the mayor. In a previous meeting, Hatzenbuhler had cited the potential for many new construction projects at Shuttleworth Park as a result of funding efforts by the Shuttleworth Park foundation, as the justification for the amendment.

“My only concern is that the Director of Recreation should have to go through engineering whenever he’s got a project going on,” said Hatzenbuhler.

Alderman Ed Russo said, “The city engineer doesn’t want to take on any new tasks right now. He’s buried with what he’s got.”

Thane said, “I also talked at length with the city engineer. He has no interest in taking over the recreation department or having Rob report to him. They already work closely together to do capital projects….But I have begun to have Rob Spagnola be involved in our weekly meeting for engineering and DPW, so Rob Spagnola will now attend all of the engineering [meetings] so it’s coordinated thing between the three departments.”

Alderman Richard Leggerio then suggested,“How about putting something in there [such as] when spending monies, the recreation director must report spending to the common council for review and approval.”

“You actually control the way he spends money with the budget…you’ve already done that with budgeting, ” said Thane.

“What if he has projects…that really aren’t on his list?” asked Leggerio.

Alderman Ron Barone explained that any department could spend within their approved budget, and it would be “kinda hard” to say to a department that they couldn’t spend what they had already been allocated. He also said that any spending by any department over their approved budget would have to be looked at by the council.

Hatzenbuhler said, “Where [Alderman Leggerio] is coming from…the current way the charter is written, and maybe this is something that can be addressed, [the recreation director] only has to have permission from the Recreation Commission to do whatever he wants in the Recreation Department.”

“Within his budget,” said Thane, “Which is developed by this body, not by the commission…and he reports regularly. I think [Recreation Committee Chair Ed Russo] talks to Rob Spagnola every day. So this whole microscope on the recreation department, which is a sliver of our total operational budget…I just don’t understand.”

The consensus of the council at the end of the discussion was to leave the proposal on the table.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.