Public Works Chief Gets Raise—Whoever That Is

Thomas MacMillan PhotoWith public works Director John Prokop retiring in three months, city officials said they can’t find a replacement—because the $98,000 salary is too low.

A new ordinance amendment will change that.

Aldermen voted last week to approve the ordinance amendment. It will raise the annual salary of the director of the Department of Public Works (DPW) by $27,000. The measure will bring his salary in line with that of people in similar positions in other Connecticut towns, said Rob Smuts, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer.

One alderwoman, Newhallville’s Delphine Clyburn, voted against the measure. She said she thinks the city can find someone to do the job for $98,000, Prokop’s current salary.

Thomas MacMillan PhotoThe city has known for some time that Prokop (pictured announcing a recycling roll-out in the East Shore) is retiring at the end of January. It’s been difficult to fill the job, Smuts said.

“We tried to hire through the deputy position and we keep losing people to jobs elsewhere,” he said.

According to a salary survey of the top positions in all 169 towns, New Haven’s DPW director pay is the 39th highest, despite the fact that it’s the state’s second-largest city, Smuts said. Click here to see more comparisons.

Every other town with over 60,000 people paid its DPW directors more—an average of $124,141.

“We just weren’t competitive,” Smuts said. “We’ve been trying to line up people for a succession plan here and the salary wasn’t there.”

The Board of Aldermen voted at its meeting this past Monday to categorize the DPW director as a “key employee,” the category to which the assessor, chief of police and the corporation counsel belong. Key employees can be paid in a salary range of up to about $160,000.

With the change, the DPW salary will increase to about $125,000, Smuts said. The increase will take effect for Prokop’s successor. The money will come out of budgeted salaries for positions that are currently vacant, Smuts said.

The department is currently without a deputy director. New Haven lost the person “in the number four spot” when another town offered him $40,000 more, Smuts said.

“We’re getting vacancy savings that will more than cover this,” Smuts said.

“I know we could find somebody who would take the 98 and do a great job,” Alderwoman Clyburn said after casting her dissenting vote. “I know we could find somebody to do it, to run this city and keep it clean for everyone.”

“When I found out the mayor appoints whoever he wants, it was not a go, because I felt like we should hire people for the service they give to constituents,” Clyburn said.

She said she thinks the city should find a DPW director who wants the job because he cares about New Haven, first and foremost. Then, if that person is doing a good job, she should get a raise, Clyburn said.

“Let’s get somebody who can do the work and do it well for every part of this city,” she said. “A lot of different parts of this city have been ignored.”

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posted by: anonymous on October 22, 2012  2:26pm

Clyburn is right. 

The problem was with people leaving the deputy position, not with the salary for the director position. Why wasn’t the salary raised for the deputy position? You’re only as good as your deputies anyways - the director’s role is primarily oversight.

Given that most of the city’s employees live out of town, I would have rather seen that extra $25,000 used directly to hire several young adults in areas with >50% unemployment rates to clean their local streets and parks in the summer and get some work experience.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 22, 2012  4:33pm

Again sold out by the crooked two party system.Keep on voting them in.Also were are the union haters at on this one.

posted by: wendy1 on October 22, 2012  4:39pm

I have been out of work for 2 1/2 years I would like to take the job.