City moves Public Works Agency forward with new bureau managers

Julia Jacobs , City Editor

In the next step toward reorganizing Evanston’s Public Works and Utilities departments under one agency, the city announced Monday the appointment of three of the agency’s bureau managers.

Although the city named current employees to lead infrastructure maintenance, environmental services, and capital planning and engineering, the bureau manager of water production has yet to be officially named. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said while the city seeks experienced applicants from outside its own ranks, sustainability manager Catherine Hurley will manage the city’s water plant.

Because the skills of the head of water production are more specialized than the other bureaus, city staff wasn’t able to find someone internally who already has a state license and experience running a water plant, Bobkiewicz said. Although there are current city employees like Hurley with the required skills, the city is targeting its application to members of the Illinois chapter of the American Water Works Association who currently have the credentials, he said.

“What we wanted to do was see what the outside world had to offer,” Bobkiewicz said.

After reorganizing staff last spring to consider potential improvements to the organization of departments, the city is implementing a combination of its Public Works and Utilities operations to boost efficiency and potentially save money amid uncertainty over state funding.

The director of the Public Works Agency, which is scheduled to operate in full at the beginning of next year, was named last week. Dave Stoneback, who was previously the director of the city’s Utilities Department, told The Daily last week that the next task after assigning the bureau managers is working with them to define the purpose of each bureau and the job descriptions of its staff.

Lara Biggs, who currently manages construction and field services in the Utilities Department, was named the capital planning and engineering bureau manager. Biggs said the bureau managers are in a transition period from their previous roles and are currently attempting to staff their bureaus effectively. Although the reorganization is one of the city’s priorities during the last months of 2015, the staff needs to balance that work with typical operations such as planning for the 2016 construction season, Biggs said.

Once the departments are merged under one agency, Biggs said she expects communication to improve significantly among staff.

Paul D’Agostino, who currently heads the forestry division of the Public Works Department, will serve as environmental services bureau manager, which will encompass refuse, recycling and park maintenance in addition to forestry. D’Agostino said although the consolidated agency will eventually allow for more efficiency in each department, the staff will likely be challenged by the short timeline.

“Three months seems like a long time, but it’s going to be difficult to pull the people together to meet as often as we’re going to need to,” D’Agostino said. “It’s not going to be impossible, but it will be challenging.”

James Maiworm, who was previously assistant director of Public Works for operations and maintenance, will manage the agency’s Infrastructure Maintenance Bureau.

Hurley said although she has been relocated to the city’s water plant to oversee its day-to-day operations in the interim, she will continue to work in her current position managing the city’s sustainability programs.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Hurley said. “My role right now is really focusing on supporting the ongoing work that delivers water to residents and our wholesale customers.”

Hurley will serve in the dual roles until the city hires a permanent bureau manager after concluding its recruitment process, she said.

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