Public works officials want to rehire ousted Streets Director Mark Serbousek as a bridge engineer, citing multiple marquee projects in the coming years in Riverfront Park and elsewhere.
“Mark is the most competent bridge engineer we’ve got,” said Scott Simmons, director of the city’s Public Works division.
Serbousek, who was quietly relieved of his post before a snowstorm last month in a reorganization City Hall will classify only as a “personnel decision,” last served as a bridge engineer with the city in November 2001.
The bridge engineer classification was eliminated in 2013, said Gita George-Hatcher, the city’s chief civil service examiner.
Bridge engineering work has instead been contracted out to third parties, Simmons said.
Planned large-scale projects, including the $9.5 million construction of a pedestrian bridge in the University District and bridge work on Howard and Post streets in Riverfront Park, and Serbousek’s change in title created an opportunity for the city to perform that work themselves over the next three years, Simmons said.
“I think this will be beneficial to the citizens,” he said. “It will be a more affordable solution than hiring outside.”
The city already is looking to opt out of construction management services for the firm overseeing the University District bridge, Simmons said, potentially shaving $55,000 off the cost. Serbousek is assisting with construction on the Howard Street bridge in Riverfront Park and early site work in the district, he said.
The administration is asking the City Council to sign off on a transfer of funds, totaling $114,467, to pay for the new position, which Simmons acknowledges is being crafted with Serbousek in mind. That amount is a little less than $13,000 below the salary the longtime streets employee was paid in 2016, according to city salary records.
Serbousek did not respond to a request for comment on whether he’d apply for the new job, but Simmons said Serbousek had “expressed a desire” to take on the role.
Simmons said the plan to re-assign Serbousek to a new position developed after he was relieved of his duties in the streets department.
“One didn’t have anything to do with the other,” Simmons said.
Gary Kaesemeyer was named interim streets director following Serbousek’s removal, and that appointment will be coming before the City Council soon for confirmation, Simmons said.
At a briefing before the City Council on Monday afternoon, there was no voiced opposition to the potential assignment.
“It saves money, and it seems efficient having our own person,” City Councilman Breean Beggs said.
“It’s definitely an expertise that we lack, and we need,” City Councilman Mike Fagan said.
A formal vote on the new position won’t come for at least two weeks, following the usual procedures of passing an emergency budget ordinance. The city’s Civil Service Commission is scheduled to meet next month, and will likely discuss job requirements for the position, said Simmons.
George-Hatcher said she’d met with Simmons and her staff was working on developing a job description, either within the old bridge engineer classification or modifying the city’s principal or senior engineer classifications with an emphasis on bridge design and construction. Simmons said under the proposed office hierarchy, Serbousek would report to Kyle Twohig, engineering operations manager for the city.
Under the city’s civil service rules, workers who take a non-exempt, non-union-represented position who lose their jobs may roll back to their previous job title, said George-Hatcher. That worker may elect to be put on a demotion list if no job is available at their current level and they face a layoff.
Serbousek joined the city in 1993 as a bridge engineer.
He was promoted to principal engineer in 2001 and assumed control of the streets department in September 2007 in the final days of Mayor Dennis Hession’s administration.
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