By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
A seemingly benign inter-departmental transfer of $100,000 in the Engineering Division budget is actually a sign of a change in direction by the City Administration when it comes to managing the engineering needs of the Public Works Department and the City.
The City Council on Monday night approved the $100,000 transfer, which essentially turned funding that had been approved for contract services into salary for a new position.
“No new funding was approved, the City simply hired a new engineer, rather than rely on the services of outside engineering consultants,” explained Council President Peter Napolitano.
According to the City website, Gregory St. Louis has been hired as the new Director of Engineering, a position that Napolitano confirmed had not been planned for in the budget. The budget transfer allows the new position to become a fully funded position in Engineering Department.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he did vote for the measure, but was one of only a few councilors with concerns about the move.
“It gives me great concern when we take two highly functioning departments that are extremely important to the quality of our community, such as DPW Director and City Engineer, and merge them together as one,” he said. “There is a reason that historically our city has saw two full-time positions. I believe we could be going down a slippery slope by merging these two departments together, although I am sure the individual is highly qualified and skilled. I still believe the responsibilities of these two departments are crucially important.”
He said he researched the matter and found that Malden, Medford, Revere, Melrose, Chelsea and Somerville all have both a DPW Director and City Engineer.
The new Director of Engineering will have his hands full right away.
Following their vote to approve the transfer and fund the position, the Council promptly voted to request the City Engineering Department appear before the Council to provide an update on the status of a redesign of the intersection of Church and Webster streets, which has been a concern for Councilors for several years.
- Council invites Mayor to next Meeting
The Council also voted to ask Mayor Carlo DeMaria to appear before them personally to discuss two issues that have been discussed at length in the past.
First, the Council would like to discuss the ongoing flood problems on Spring Street and how they relate to the administration’s announced intention to build a new stadium at Seven Acre Park.
Councilors also want to discuss reducing the tax rate in light of new development in the city.