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Council looks at restructuring of public works division

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

Big changes are on the horizon for Plum's public works department.

Plum Council on Monday night is expected to consider approving early-retirement agreements for longtime public works director Bill Berchick and another employee as well as hiring four new employees as part of a restructuring plan.

Plum manager Michael Thomas said the realignment of the department that includes eliminating the public works director position and promoting two employees to administrative positions — one to oversee the streets and roads and another to manage the buildings and grounds operation — is expected to save the borough $95,000 a year.

“The borough has grown so much in the last 15 to 20 years,” Thomas said during the council work session earlier this week. “It's too much for one person to manage the whole thing.”

Thomas declined to disclose the name of the other potential retiree pending council's vote on the early-retirement agreements that members are scheduled to discuss Monday night.

Berchick, public works director for 24 years, declined to discuss his potential retirement plans pending council's consideration of the early retirement agreements.

Thomas said the four potential hirings will help beef up the department that has fallen in numbers over the years due to retirements and lack of hirings.

Thomas said the department had 21 laborers in 2005, compared to 14 now.

Councilman Keith Nowalk, personnel committee chairman, said, if hired, the four candidates' start dates would be dependent upon them finishing their current jobs.

The potential early retirements and subsequent hirings are not the only changes. Construction of a new, multimillion dollar facility is underway in the Renton section of Plum.

A portion of the new public works facility — the salt storage building — has been completed, Thomas said.

Construction of a 21,000-square-foot building and garage with a capacity for 25 vehicles, bays for mechanics and lifts for vehicles is under way on borough property between Renton Road and Old Leechburg Road. Council earlier this year awarded $7.1 million in contracts for the new facility.

The public works facility is located at the borough building site off New Texas Road. Berchick has said the 40-year-old building has many deficiencies including a lack of office space and a lack of indoor storage for vehicles.

Berchick said the building, vehicles and equipment are exposed to salt and need numerous repairs.

Also planned at the new site are offices, a training room, restrooms, locker rooms and a kitchen area. The site will have parking, including 25 employee spaces.

Council on Monday night is expected to consider change orders for the project including nearly $150,000 related to moving unsuitable soil from the construction site.

Assistant Manager Greg Bachy said about $300,000 has been spent on change orders. Money for change orders is in a contingency fund that is separate from the project fund.

“We are halfway through the project, and we are not halfway through the contingency fund,” Bachy said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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