Goshen's mayor wants to create environmental department

Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman

GOSHEN — A new Environmental Department is currently in the works for Goshen city government.

During their meeting Tuesday evening, Goshen City Council members were informed by Mayor Jeremy Stutsman of his intention to create the new environmental department. The announcement was made during a brief update by Stutsman on the status of budgetary discussions currently taking place among the city’s department heads in the lead-up to passage of the city’s 2020 budget later this year.

“Along with this process, there are a couple things that I’ve talked to the council about, and I’ll be bringing to you shortly now that we’re really starting to get into this,” Stutsman said of the ongoing budget discussions. “I’ve mentioned that I’d like to create an environmental department. We’re just now really being able to crack down on the language, the missions, the statement of what this department does. We’re getting all that fine-tuned. And I want to be clear, we’re going to try to get this to the council very soon. My intent is to get it to you on the council agenda.”

Speaking to that urgency, Stutsman said his goal would be to get the new environmental department added to the 2020 budget so that it can be fully implemented by next year.

“So I’m also creating a budget worksheet to give you an idea of what this might look like,” he said.

As currently proposed, Stutsman said the new environmental department would initially consist of two full-time employees who would be shifted from their current positions at the Goshen Parks Department.

“It would be Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley, the city forester, and making that into its own department,” Stutsman said of the planned employee shift. “It got put into the parks department when it first started because that was an easy place to put it. So nothing would change with offices. We’re not shifting anybody like that. But Aaron and his assistant would be moving into this new department to give it more of an emphasis on what we’re trying to do. And I’m sure there would be, through our plan, we’re going to find that in the future we’re going to want to add some people to that department. But right now it’s about getting it started and figuring out exactly what is a need and how does it grow.”

As part of that effort, Stutsman said his hope is to have a plan before the council shortly outlining exactly what the department would look like over its first three years of operation.

“We’re trying to lay it out so its got some real teeth as to what it’s supposed to be doing, and how it’s going to benefit the community. But we also want to leave it so that it can mold and shift into whatever it needs to be over time,” Stutsman added of the department.

Given that the new department will be staffed with two existing employees, Stutsman said creation of the department should require very little additional funding on the part of the city. That said, he did note that he will be exploring a couple of different options for the new department’s formation, one of which includes the potential hiring of a third employee for the new department.

“The extra pieces that I would like to throw into the department for a two- to three-year jump-start are what I’ll be sharing with you, how much that money is,” Stutsman said of the budget worksheet he’ll be providing to council members. “I’m going to give you options of what we could do, and then we’ll have to decide what as a council and as elected officials we want to do. So I’ll probably have an option where there is a new employee in it, but that’s to look at and to talk about.”

Despite his urgency to get the new department up and running, Stutsman was quick to point out that he’ll be more than willing to push the pause button on that forward momentum in the event any of the council’s members have unresolved questions or concerns related to the department’s formation moving forward.

“I want you to know that if it needs to be tabled, if it needs to be postponed, if you want more discussion, I’m all for that,” Stutsman told the council. “If you love what we did, and you want to pass it, that’s fantastic. But we want this to be something that really benefits the community and city government, so I will be getting that on the council agenda in the near future. But I’m not going to be pushing fast to make a vote.”

John Kline can be reached at john.kline@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 315. Follow John on Twitter @jkline_TGN

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