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Teams present initiatives to council

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

Projects would address roadside cleanup, staff accountability

City employees proposed two ambitious new initiatives to the City Council on Tuesday, one that would see Denton take over the maintenance along major roads into the city and another that would improve staff accountability and development.

The discussion came during a council work session Tuesday afternoon when two teams of city staff members made formal presentations after several months of work and meetings.

Both projects have implications for next year’s budget, said City Manager George Campbell, but the amounts won’t be discussed until next week when the finance department presents its first look at the 2014-15 program of services.

Staff members from one team showed photos of litter, weeds and high grass along major entryways into the city, most along corridors maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation contracts for minimal mowing and litter removal.

They recommended that the city take over the maintenance of those roadsides from the state.

Lancine Bentley, director of the city’s Community Improvement Services division, told the council that the team would be looking for ways to help pay for such a program, including agreements with TxDOT, fees and public improvement districts.

Another team proposed that employee development go beyond annual performance appraisals, which have not been effective at inspiring professional growth or improving accountability. The team proposed that the city employ a performance management team to help coax more out of current managers and their employees.

Campbell told the council that he felt the two proposed projects were very ambitious and that he’s impressed at how hard the staff worked at addressing two longstanding problems.

“They said, ‘We know we’ve got a problem and we’re going to find a solution,’” Campbell said. “I’m proud of them.”

The city manager and assistant city managers have taken other steps in the past year to foster innovation with employees, including a electronic suggestion box for the rank-and-file. Through the process of commenting and feedback, those suggestions are considered by managers and department heads in an effort to improve city services. Employees can receive incentives for their ideas, too.

Another program evaluated the city’s hiring and purchasing processes, according to Chuck Springer, the city’s finance director.

Ultimately, the staff was able to streamline both, shortening the time between the start of a new hire or purchase and its completion, Springer said.

He will present the first look at the 2014-15 program of services during a council workshop Tuesday.

After meeting in closed session Tuesday, the council held a special session to authorize the city manager to make offers on two parcels of land needed for the expansion of Denton Municipal Electric power lines.

The city will offer $725,000 to Singing Oaks Church of Christ for two parcels totaling about 6.6 acres for the Spencer to Denton North interchange. It will also offer $1.26 million to Dr. Edward Wolski for a 10.1-acre parcel at North Bonnie Brae Street and Riney Road.

The council also approved a resolution reappointing Ross Chadwick, who recently retired as the city’s fire chief, as the interim fire chief.

In an interview after the meeting, Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said that the city began a national search a month ago and learned that some current members in the department were interested in applying for the job. In order to keep a level playing field for all the candidates, Fortune said he asked Chadwick to step in for a few months until the search is complete.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.