City Considers Human Resources Investment Plan

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Thursday October 15, 2015

The City of South Burlington’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP), outlines anticipated capital costs ten years out, and now, at the city council’s request, the development of a parallel process for human resources called the Human Resources Investment Program (HRIP)is being developed.

Department heads presented their anticipated human resource needs to the council Monday, Oct. 5. The reports were based upon anticipated retirements, a potential growth in population, and budget constraints.

Some of the projected needs were more easily defined than others. For example, Public Works Director Justin Rabidoux knows that he will need a number of employees going forward for specific projects. Rabidoux mentioned the addition of five seasonal employees in 2017, a facilities manager in 2019, and a stormwater technician in 2020 due to anticipated growth in City Center and increasing mandates from the state regarding phosphorous mitigation as well as the need to update expired stormwater permits.

When it came to the fire and police departments, future needs were not as easy to predict. Chief Brent noted that his department brings in the most revenue of any city department and that he has implemented a number of cost saving measures, which include combining responsibilities, cross training, and restructuring. Based on current figures, Brent anticipates a 3-6 percent increase in the number of responses his department will make per year. He requested three firefighter/EMTs in 2017, three in 2019, and six in 2021. Brent explained the department operates in teams, which require three individuals on an ambulance and three on a fire truck for each call. Based on projected growth in the city, Brent noted the possibility that a third station may become necessary by 2022.

Police Chief Trevor Whipple projected an addition of three civilian positions and nine sworn officers. Whipple, like Brent, acknowledged the unpredictability of their jobs from day to day, so anticipating what could happen ten years from today was a challenge. “This is a fluid proposal,” Whipple said, “the majority are desires, and a lot depends on development changes.” Whipple cited continued concerns around the opiate situation and the uptick in retail theft as a result. “Retail has more of a drain on services than residential,” Whipple added.

Redundancy was mentioned throughout a number of presentations pointing out the need to begin training staff to take over complex positions a few years down the line when people retire. Finance Director Sue Dorey requested just one position, someone who could take on her responsibilities in an emergency.

City Clerk Donna Kinville echoed that refrain. “I know each department is underfunded and understaffed...that’s how I looked at my plan.” Kinville wants to add a part time, 20 hour per week position, so that someone could learn the ropes of the office then be promoted to a full time position with greater responsibility when another member of the staff retires.

As far as City Manager Kevin Dorn and the council were aware, South Burlington is the only city in the state to embark on this process and as the CIP has helped the city stay on top of expenditures, the hope is that the HRIP will do the same for the city’s personnel.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent