Council maps plan for city manager search

Council set a course for its city manager search Wednesday that maps out not only the upcoming months-long process, but also the costs that may come with it.

"I believe the plan that the ad hoc committee developed was well received and supported by the council that was present last night," Council Member Steve Bonkowski said Thursday morning. "The committee believes that the process we developed will allow the council – with heavy community, city staff and union involvement – to successfully recruit a new city manager."

The search's ad hoc committee, consisting of council members Bonkowski, Anne Blair and David Ward, presented a plan that maps out a timeframe, and a budget.

The search plan covers everything from establishing a bid list for executive search firms to hiring the new manager. It provides a sobering view into the process, and the price tag, of transitioning to a new manager.

Council approved the draft statement of work for the search by a 6-0 vote, with Councilor Bob Scales absent.

Bonkowski spoke for the committee during the meeting and presented four main sections of the search that included developing a city manager profile, conducting a search, a selection process, and weekly status updates on the search.

The city manager profile will be assisted by whichever search firm the council hires and will take into account the needs presented by the council, staff, employee unions, community leaders and residents. From this information, a skill set and an overall compensation package for the new city manager will be approved by council.

Bonkowski said the total timeframe for the search is 12 to 15 weeks, and that a new hire could be made around June or July, with a starting date soon after that.

City Manager Brenda Bauer voiced concerns over the schedule that was proposed, noting that it adds more work to an already heavy workload.

"That's a very aggressive schedule in terms of developing a (request for proposal) for a firm to come help you. You got us essentially establishing a list of firms and getting a draft RFP in a matter of days," Bauer said. "We have some other very time-consuming things on the agenda for next week. So just even the start of this is very optimistic."

Bonkowski said that not everything in the plan has to happen all at once and that the council may need a list of search firms just to get started – the RFP can come soon after.

"We knew that we had developed an aggressive schedule, and needed to review and refine that schedule with city staff," Bonkowski said Thursday morning. "Brenda and I will be refining the schedule in the next few days."

On Feb. 8, council set aside $250,000 taken from the contingency fund to cover the city manager transition. This money includes paying Bauer's severance package, as well as the cost to search for and hire her replacement.

Bonkowski said that he is a "firm believer in ranges" when dealing with budget numbers, and the budget he presented for the search reflects just that.

The budget includes the cost to cover Bauer's severance, which the committee estimated at a range of $125,000 to $170,000.

Also included is the possibility of hiring an interim manager, should Bauer leave prior to the city replacing her, which could run up to $34,000. The contract for a national search firm could span from $35,000 to $60,000.

When candidates for the city manager position are identified, which the committee assumes will be between three and five applicants, the city may have to pay for travel and other expenses set at a range of $6,300 to $19,000. Paying for relocation runs from $10,000 to $30,000.

In the end, the total bill for the city manager transition could cost anywhere between $176,300 to $313,000.

"We allocated $250,000," Bonkowski said. "I think (that number) is an appropriate amount right now until we find out if we are closer to some of these other numbers."

He added that the committee had "worked together to try to get a better handle on where we think the budget is. And when we started going through this we recognized that there were other tasks that were related (to the search) that we should look at."

One such task would be the possible need for an interim manager. If Bauer decides to leave her position before council has been able to hire a new manager, then the council should have resumes and contracts on hand of potential interim managers who can take over until the new hire is made.

"If this were to occur we want to be prepared so we that we can appropriately provide a city manager," Bonkowski said. "There are a lot of things going on."


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