City government leaders are campaigning for a Dec. 6 ballot measure that will break up the sprawling Department of Public Works, which handles jobs from grass mowing to building maintenance to roadwork, into six different departments.
The proposal would dissolve the DPW director position and instead create six separate departments with their own heads. The change will not cost additional taxpayer money, and government officials say the reorganization will boost efficiency and lead to better recruiting and retention.
The city-parish government hasn’t substantially changed the department’s structure since the 1940s, and it is now struggling to fill DPW jobs notorious for being low-paid. The department also faces losing one-fourth of its employees to retirement in the next five to seven years.
“We’ve been working on this for two years,” said William Daniel, the mayor-president’s chief administrative officer. “We painstakingly went person by person with existing employees, placing them in new departments to make sure we weren’t overlooking something big.”
The proposed reorganization goes hand-in-hand with a pay plan Daniel recently pitched to the public works union and Metro Council. His plan would change the city-parish’s pay structure by reining in benefits and funneling some of the money back into salaries.
Negotiations for the pay plan have slowed down in recent weeks. Daniel said the pay plan and reorganization have the same aim: to recruit and retain city workers.
If the reorganization passes, the new departments will be: environmental services; transportation and drainage; maintenance; buildings and grounds; fleet management; and development. Each will have a leader, which Daniel said will make each division more efficient, more transparent and more accountable.
But Alvin Rattle, one of the DPW union organizers, said the reorganization is unnecessary and that it will weigh down the department as it becomes more top-heavy.
“You could be paying other people with the salaries they’re going to be paying in this reorganization,” Rattle said.
Daniel maintains that the reorganization will not swell the public works budget and said each new department will have its own budget. The Metro Council unanimously agreed in September to put the proposal on the Dec. 6 ballot.
If approved, the changes will kick in quickly, going into effect on Jan. 15.