Several Lexington city departments led by interim directors for months

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comJanuary 3, 2014 

Critical departments within Lexington's city government, including streets and roads, traffic engineering and parks and recreation, have been without full-time directors for months.

Some of the operations that the departments oversee include paving, snow removal, operation of traffic lights, refuse collection, sanitary and storm water systems and installation of street lights.

Sally Hamilton, the chief administrative officer for Urban County Government, said this week that filling the positions is her top priority.

"We are working to fill these positions. These are the divisions that relate to the public," Hamilton said.

A spate of retirements and re-organization efforts have created the openings. In the case of traffic engineering, there has not been a permanent director in more than a year.

All of the positions have had interim directors, she said.

Hamilton said that the city hopes to begin advertising for a new director of waste management as early as next week. That position became open after longtime director Steve Feese announced his retirement in December. Waste management oversees recycling and trash collection.

The city will begin advertising for streets and roads and traffic engineering in mid-January, Hamilton said.

In addition to openings at the director-level, the city has been through three commissioners of Environmental Quality and Public Works in three years. The commissioner oversees solid waste, streets and roads, traffic engineering and water quality.

Richard Moloney, the most recent commissioner, retired at the end of October. Charlie Martin, the director of the division of water quality, was named acting commissioner.

Martin, however, does not want the top job, Hamilton said.

His plate is full. Among other duties, Martin oversees the city's $600 million sanitary and storm water sewer system upgrades that are part of the city's settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Given the turnover in that position, Hamilton said the city will take its time to find a replacement.

"We need to find the right person," Hamilton said. "You have to advertise in other places outside of Lexington. That takes time."

Urban County Council member Bill Farmer questioned the city about its efforts to fill the open positions at a council meeting in December.

Farmer said this week that the city has used interim directors to fill the vacancies. It's difficult for an interim director to make decisions if the job isn't permanent, he said.

"There have been a couple of things that have not been handed off as directly as they could have been," Farmer said of the problems created by the vacancies.

At one point, the city had debated combining the director of traffic engineering and public works into one position. That delayed hiring for both positions. But Hamilton said the city will tell council at a Jan. 14 subcommittee meeting that that proposal is off the table. They will hire directors for each division. Advertisements for those two positions will go out after the Jan. 14 meeting, she said.

All of the direct-level positions are civil service jobs and must be advertised. The commissioner for Environmental Quality and Public Works is an appointed position.

Beth Musgrave: (859)231-3205. Twitter:@HLCityhall.

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