Independence's proposed Department of Public Utilities, with Assistant City Manager Mark Randall serving as director, has been established after the City Council unanimously approved the move Monday.
As envisioned by the City Charter if creating such a department of all three utilities, Randall effectively replaces the position of Power & Light director, which had been vacant since Leon Daggett retired in June 2017. Deputy Director Andy Boatright, who had been P&L's acting director, will continue to oversee that department's day-to-day operations, and Dan Montgomery (water) and Lisa Phelps (water pollution control) continue as directors of their respective departments.
The move simply formalizes a structure that's been in place since Daggett's retirement. City Manager Zach Walker said such an organizational structure is similar to what Columbia and Springfield have with their city utilities, and by not filling Daggett's salary the city would save about $300,000 and become more efficient without hurting service.
• Also Monday, the council passed resolutions asking Walker to research the possibility of placing electronic message display boards outside City Hall and the Utilities Center, as well as some police housing incentive programs employed around the country.
The resolutions, both requested by Council Member Mike Huff, call for the city manager to present findings and/or recommendations by July 1 regarding message boards and by August regarding police housing.
Huff said the message boards could be an effective and additional way to get bits of news to the public. Council Member Curt Dougherty said the Utilities Center site has a possible monument foundation – with power hookup – left from when the hospital existed on the site.
Police housing incentive programs have been started in several large cities elsewhere in the U.S., with the hope of deterring crime, improving community relationships and even helping with police recruiting. The city's most recent citizen satisfaction survey showed residents want crime prevention and reduction and police presence in neighborhoods to be large points of emphasis in the city.
“This helps stabilize neighborhoods by police being present there,” Huff said.