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Washington city engineer gets a 'not super common' employment agreement

Washington city engineer Dennis Carr (center) listens to a speaker during an October 2023 city council meeting.
Steve Stein
/
WCBU
Washington city engineer Dennis Carr (center) listens to a speaker during an October 2023 city council meeting.

The Washington City Council on Monday unanimously approved an employment agreement requested by city engineer Dennis Carr.

City Administrator Jim Snider and Police Chief Mike McCoy are the only other city employees with similar agreements.

Several reasons were cited for Carr's request.

The council agenda packet noted his concern "as to the makeup of the City Council following next April's mayor and aldermanic election."

During a council discussion prior to the vote, Snider was asked by council member John Blundy how common it is in general for a department head to request an employment agreement.

"Not super common," Snider said. "It depends how on how volatile the politics are in a community. For a city, an agreement like this helps keep good people in place no matter what's going on politically."

Dennis Carr
City of Washington
Dennis Carr

While referencing politics, Snider said opponents of a route for a proposed multi-million-dollar replacement for the Farm Creek sewer trunkline that Carr has recommended had directed "off-base" comments about Carr's professionalism in emails to council members.

Blundy thought Carr's employment agreement would set an "awkward precedent," but he voted for it.

Council member Mike Brownfield said every city department head is valuable and would benefit from an employment agreement.

Council member Lili Stevens said every city employee should feel safe regardless of the outcome of a city election.

Carr didn't speak about his employment agreement request at the council meeting. Asked late last week by WCBU to elaborate on his request, he replied by email Monday and pointed to security for his family.

"My family and I love it in Washington," he said. "We love the school districts and the city. The staff, administrator and mayor have accepted my family with open arms and ... have treated them largely like their own.

"Jim (Snider) has allowed me to use a city vehicle to do things like pick up my kids from school when they're sick, pick up my daughter from pre-school, and bring the kids to City Hall to visit on occasion.

"I asked to get an agreement that would allow this to continue regardless of who sits in the administrator's chair."

Carr's employment agreement, which goes into effect on May 1, the start of the 2024-25 fiscal year, allows him to use a city-owned vehicle for business without a mileage limitation, and for personal use within 50 miles of City Hall.

The agreement also states that if his employment is terminated by the city administrator without cause, he will receive five months severance pay.

Carr's salary for the 2023-24 fiscal year is $135,277, making him the city's fourth-highest paid employee behind Snider ($155,156), McCoy ($140,524) and Finance Director Joanie Baxter ($135,958).

A Bradley University graduate, Carr has been the city engineer since 2020. He previously was the director of public works for the city of Freeport (2017-20) and a civil engineer with Peoria-based Hanson Professional Services (2006-17).

City's proposed $41.3 million budget is heavy on capital expenditures

Washington's 2024-25 fiscal year budget, the largest in city history, is nearing the finish line.

There were no comments at a public hearing Monday on the $41.3 million spending plan, which is a $6.5 million, or 18.8% increase over the 2023-24 fiscal year budget.

Council is expected to approve the 2024-25 budget April 15. The new fiscal year will begin May 1.

Capital expenditures, mostly for infrastructure improvements on streets and utility distribution systems, are estimated to total about $22.9 million, or 55.4% of budget expenses. Personnel expenses are estimated to total about $9.8 million, or 23.8% of budget expenses.

Total city employment for the 2024-25 fiscal year will be 72.25 full-time equivalent. One full-time employee has been added -- a sergeant in the police department. About 46% of the city's workforce is engaged in public safety and about 43% is involved in public works.

As for budget revenue, the largest local generators are the 1% municipal sales tax (estimated $4 million for 2024-25), 1.25% home-rule sales tax (estimated $3.2 million for 2024-25), and .5% additional home-rule sales taxes for infrastructure and stormwater management (estimated $1.2 million each for 2024-25).

The budget includes spending an estimated $4 million from reserves, leaving a general fund balance of $13.5 million, which is 64% of budgeted expenditures. A minimum balance of 25% of budgeted expenditures is recommended.

Morton engineering firm selected to keep an eye on Catherine Street, drainage projects

Millennia Professional Services of Morton will provide full-time construction engineering services for the upcoming Catherine Street improvement project and two drainage projects a few blocks away near the downtown Washington square.

City staff selected Millennia from among four proposals submitted by local firms and the council Monday approved an agreement with Millennia for a not-to-exceed cost of $599,300.

"Staff felt it would be most cost-efficient to have one firm do the construction engineering for these projects," Carr said. "This allows the firm to adjust their staffing levels where work is being done, and not have someone full-time on a project where work isn't being done that day."

Police shut down speeder, take away handgun from intoxicated person

In their regular report to the council on Monday, McCoy and Deputy Police Chief Jeff Stevens said Washington officers ticketed a motorist going 61 miles per hour in a 30 MPH zone on North Main Street south of North Street; seized a loaded handgun from an intoxicated person who was reported as suicidal; and ticketed a motorist for hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

In his report, Carr said about 40 residents have taken advantage of the city's new 70/30 city-resident cost-sharing program for residential sidewalk and curb replacement this fiscal year.

Steve Stein is an award-winning news and sports writer and editor. Most recently, he covered Tazewell County communities for the Peoria Journal Star for 18 years.