After initiating a major shake-up of top-level administration, City Manager Kevin Evans spoke to the city’s Public Safety Committee on the rationale behind his moves and plans for moving forward.
Evans said the reorganization and creation of new and combined departments and shifting of personnel would most likely not be complete until the city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year is finalized. The big key there, he said, continues to be contingent on the housing market.
“I don’t know how bad it’s going to get,” Evans said. “You’re going to see more people go away if we don’t get this turned around but they aren’t going to be in the field unless this thing really collapses.”
The fire and police departments, now both under the direction of Acting Public Safety Director Patrick Melvin, are staffed for a city between 35,000 and 50,000 residents.
After the release of Fire Chief William Kelleher and the elimination of that position by Evans, the International Association of Firefighters Union spoke out at a council meeting against the move. Evans sought to calm fears that further cuts would not be made, but did not back down from his stance on unifying the fire and police departments under one director.
“It’s going to be under one person but it’s going to be two separate departments,” Evans said of the MPD and MFD. “I just need joint leadership at this point because I need to save money. Anything we can do where we can make fiscal advances, I’ll take a look at.”
Evans wants to follow the desires of the public, he said, and, thus, his main focuses as city manager are for top-level public safety, improved parks and recreation opportunities and public works advances.
With a goal of pairing down the top-level administrators in the city from what was originally 11 that report directly to the city manager to seven, Evans said if he had his way there would be only five director-level positions. Some moves he would like to make, however, he has conceded he will not be able to initiate.
“It’s a work in progress,” Evans said. “It’s not now what it’s going to be.”