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Plum council OKs public works realignment

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

Plum Council put the wheels in motion to realign the public-works department.

Members on Monday night voted to approve early retirements for longtime public-works director Bill Berchick and Domenic Franco, a 10-year employee.

Council also approved hiring four laborers: Shaun Williams, Edward Brodak, Justin Lauffer and Richard Ruskiewicz. Manager Michael Thomas said the four are expected to start work Jan. 7 at a rate of $15.50 an hour.

“We hired four new employees,” said Council vice president Keith Nowalk who chairs the personnel committee. “It wasn't done on the spur of the moment. We worked all year on this, and we have these timely retirements.”

Manager Michael Thomas said under the retirement agreements, the borough will pay for Berchick's health benefits until October 2014 when Berchick, a 24-year-employee, turns 65. Thomas said Berchick's retirement date is May 10, 2013. Berchick's salary is $80,000.

The package for Franco, 61, includes a cash payment of $5,000 as well as paying for the health benefits of Franco's wife for several years until she turns 65. Franco's benefits will be paid for by the borough until Franco turns 65 under the public-works collective bargaining agreement. Franco's retirement is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2013. His salary is $50,000, Thomas said.

Thomas said the restructuring 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 portion of the department and another to manage the buildings-and-grounds operation — is expected to save the borough $95,000 a year.

Thomas said the administrative changes are expected to take place in April 2013, just prior to Berchick's scheduled retirement.

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

Thomas said the four employees will help beef up the department.

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

Council on Monday night also approved various change orders for the multimillion dollar public-works facility including nearly $150,000 related to moving unsuitable soil from the construction site in the Renton section of the borough.

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.

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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