Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

July 31, 2013

Annual retreat finds city departments looking for more employees

GOSHEN — The Goshen City Council met with city department heads Tuesday afternoon for the council’s annual retreat, and while numerous subjects were touched on over the course of the nearly four-hour meeting, perhaps the most prevalent was the call for more employees.

The past few years have not been easy for city government, with events such as the recession that reared its head in 2008 coupled with state-mandated property tax caps combining to deal a dramatic blow to the city’s coffers.

In reaction to that sudden loss in revenue, city department heads were quickly called to reign in spending and do what they could with budgets significantly smaller than in previous years. In many cases, that meant the loss of employees or the decision not to fill vacant positions.

On Tuesday, numerous city department heads and representatives went before the council to provide summaries of what they would like to see for their departments in 2013 and 2014. For many, those summaries included often passionate appeals for more manpower.

City police

Goshen Police Chief Wade Branson was among the first to appeal for additional employees, noting that while he has done what he could to cut costs and manpower over the past couple of years, those cuts — coupled with a growing city population and significantly increased calls for service — are beginning to take their toll.

“I’m here to tell you that the smoke and mirrors is over,” Branson said. “We need additional manpower.”

Branson noted that Goshen currently employs 58 officers when in reality the department should be working with between 73 and 76 officers when considering Goshen’s population of approximately 32,000 permanent residents as well as the several thousand additional non-residents who commute to the city for work. Branson also noted that calls for service this year from last year have increased by more than 1,000, resulting in a significant increase in overtime hours due to lack of available bodies.

“The Bureau of Justice in 2008 recommended that cities maintain 2.3 officers per 1,000 residents,” Branson said. “The city of Elkhart is 2.41 per 1,000, South Bend is 2.49 per 1,000, and Nappanee is 2.23 per 1,000. Based on the 2010 census, our officers per 1,000 is 1.83. If I add the additional population (since 2010), we’re about 1.75. So using the 2.3 figure, we should be right around 73 officers.”

While acknowledging that he does not expect the city to hire that many additional officers, he did indicate he will be requesting an additional two officers in the 2014 budget.

Street department

Goshen Street Commissioner Denny Long also indicated Tuesday that he will be requesting two new positions for the 2014 budget.

“Back in 1986 there were 18 employees at the Street Department compared to 16 today,” Long said. “I’m sure the amount of area that we now cover and the work load has increased, but the bodies have decreased. The dedicated staff and updated, reliable equipment are the reasons that we provide the level of service that’s possible today. But that will only take us so far. In the future, as we continue to grow, staffing will be a bigger issue as employees take their benefit time, leaving less manpower on a daily basis.”

In addition, Long noted that demand for street department services has grown significantly over the past couple of years, creating even more of an issue when it comes to workload.

“Between our regular road maintenance programs, the other things that are asked of us have and are creating a real time/manpower crunch,” Long said. “It is tough to think of any event held in this city that does not require the street department’s participation. From First Fridays to neighborhood block parties, fireworks, ice cream socials, parades, memorials, and the list goes on, the street department is there providing some kind of assistance.”

City court

For her part, City Judge Gretchen Lund noted that while she will not be asking for any additional employees for 2014, her current staff has been reduced to the point where any further reductions would begin to cause problems in the future.

“We currently have three full-time employees and one part-time employee and then myself as judge. We had five full-time employees when I started,” Lund said. “So the work hasn’t decreased, but because of the efficiencies and things that we’ve put in place, with one employee retiring and one position being assumed by the police department, we’re able to do our clerk office with three full-time and one part-time employees. I wouldn’t want to, nor do I think we could, go any less than that simply from the logistics standpoint.”

Stormwater

Goshen Utilities Engineer Dustin Sailor, presenting his wish list for the city’s Stormwater Management Department, indicated he too will be requesting a new position for 2014 in the form of a new, full-time Stormwater Utility employee.

In explaining his request, Sailor said he feels that over the past couple of years it seems he has been able to do less and less actual engineering work due to increased demand for his time in other areas  — something he said he hopes the new position will help to remedy.

Parks and Rec

Sheri Howland, superintendent of the Goshen Parks and Recreation Department, was perhaps the most vocal of the day’s speakers in her call for the need to fill vacancies within the department that have been in place since 2009.

“For the past several years, like all other departments, Parks has been asked to look at how we do what we do for efficiencies. We have done that and more,” Howland said. “We have cut staff, combined positions, reduced mowing frequencies, reviewed fee schedules and evaluated programming. Even with cutbacks, participation and revenues continue to grow. Staff has worked long hours and many have forfeited their weekends to provide for Parks and Recreation in Goshen. It is not possible to continue this pace.”

In addition to the cutbacks in employees and services, Howland noted that securing adequate volunteer work has also grown increasingly difficult. Finding and retaining enough part-time workers is also becoming an issue, she said.

“This team can no longer absorb maintenance of this growth. We are requesting the vacancies within the park staff be reinstated. The workload has become much too difficult for the park team to provide the same high level of services experienced in the past without these vacancies being reinstated,’ Howland said.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • GN140424 Emma1 Pioneer Drama Troupe to perform 'Emma' Emma has a gift for getting people together — or so she thinks. Pride and matchmaking gone awry are key to Jane Austen’s “Emma,” which will be brought to theatrical life this weekend by the Pioneer Drama Troupe.

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • GN140423 west goshen dress code 04 West Goshen dress code policy unveiled GOSHEN — Solid color shirts with collars and two to four buttons are the proposed changes for students at Goshen Elementary School with a standardized dress code policy this fall.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michigan Prisoner Escape Michigan murderer arraigned in prison escape that led to manhunt in Elkhart, LaGrange counties

    IONIA, Mich. — A convicted murderer who broke out of a western Michigan prison in February has been arraigned on escape, carjacking and kidnapping charges.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140423 Wakarusa Musical 3 'A Kid's Life' portrays sudden techno loss WAKARUSA — The young people of our present day society don’t remember ever having lived their lives without some element of electronic gadgetry becoming involved. For them, it would be difficult to fathom the possibility of a world “off the grid.” So the fourth- and fifth-grade students of Wakarusa Elementary School will offer a comedic and chaotic interpretation of such a dilemma with their upcoming musical “A Kid’s Life.”

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140423 stress relief 03 Furry pals help GC students with dog days of finals GOSHEN - Goshen College students took a break from preparing for final exams to hangout with some four-legged friends Monday afternoon.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140423 FF spring play_3547 Fairfield students to present Oscar Wilde classic BENTON — Fairfield’s musicals and plays have recently left their status as an extracurricular activity and come under the wing of the Performing Arts Department and under the direction of Andrew Muth.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • Sheriff Brad Rogers_0657 Sheriff travels to Nev. ranch in fed dispute Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers has weighed in on a controversy surrounding a Nevada rancher, and visited the scene of the struggle.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140209 snow storm 05 Elkhart, LaGrange counties denied FEMA aid GOSHEN — Elkhart and LaGrange counties were not among the 19 Indiana counties that had financial aid approved Tuesday by FEMA for a January winter storm.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Prep Roundup BASEBALL Falcons garner road win The Fairfield Falcons posted a 5-4 victory Tuesday evening at Rochester. Dustin Everage (three innings), Andrew Bobeck (three) and Austin Christner (one) pitched for the winners. Everage struck out three to earn the

    April 23, 2014

  • Akela.jpg SLIDESHOW: Pets of the Week Available cats and dogs at the Humane Society of Elkhart County. These loving animals are looking for permanent homes.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

There has been discussion at West Goshen Elementary School to require mandatory student uniforms in the future. How do you feel about the prospect of mandatory student uniforms in a public school environment?

I think it’s an excellent idea that is way overdue
I think it’s a bad idea and would be restrictive for students and parents.
     View Results
AP Video