Negotiations drive idea for new city director

The way the city of Dunkirk deals with personnel issues needs to change, according to Mayor Willie Rosas.

He told the OBSERVER that is why he is looking to create the new position of director of human resources.

Rosas explained the current personnel director, Roger Hayden, works part-time and much of that is devoted to handling civil service regulations and administering the benefits packages for the city’s four unions.

“That work in itself takes up a lot of his time,” Rosas said. “I need an HR person that can help initiate different policies, protocols and procedures. Right now, I think that the city really needs an HR director to assist with the negotiation of the union contracts as well as grievances. For example, we have issues that we’re dealing with since I’ve taken office where I think the management team needs to be better educated on management rights. These issues are costing the city taxpayers lots of money annually and I believe that this position is going to help us to save money annually.”

Rosas said the city charter will need to be changed, that is why it was presented to council as resolution 78 for its meeting tonight at 6 p.m in city hall.

“I brought it up for council in the form of a resolution so that they understand this changes the way we operate. The department heads will have to understand that the system is going to be changed so that the HR director is going to oversee all departments with any HR issues and grievances with the union contracts. That’s a change that I want to have council approve,” he said, while also noting that he is not sure if all councilmembers are on board yet.

Rosas also explained that while the position – which will cost $50,000 annually – is not budgeted for, he has a plan to make up that amount in savings in other areas like Hayden’s extra work hours and by amending the city’s overtime policy.

“I firmly believe that we can budget for this position and the city will end up with a financial benefit out of it. There’s overtime policies that need to be tweaked, there’s a lot of different issues that have come up that we need to address and if we address them appropriately, which I think this HR director would, it’s going to have a savings to the city in our overtime lines in each department, which is major savings,” he said.

Rosas said he chose Vicki Westling, who earlier this year he brought on as a part-time executive assistant, because of her experience.

“She has an extensive background in human resources and that’s where I would like to get her so that she can help me with these union contracts. We’re ending negotiations with the unions and I want her involved and I need her full-time,” he added.

This change and others may be hard for city employees and management to accept, but Rosas sees them as necessary in light of the 85 percent reduction in NRG’s payment in lieu of tax agreement with the city.

“These are changes that we’ve absolutely thought out and these are positive changes. These are things that we need to do for the city. With the NRG crisis looming over us we have to change the way we operate and bringing in an HR director that understands is step number one in the process of changing,” he said.

Also to help out with union contract negotiations, Rosas has recommended contracting with George Corsoro for $1,000 for September through the end of December.

“George has an extensive background in contract negotiations with unions. He has worked for the federal government as a chief negotiator for union contracts, so he’s very familiar with the process and he’s a true professional,” he said.

In addition, Rosas has found a candidate to fill the director of planning and development position which has been vacant since June.

Rosas said he was impressed by Rebecca Yanus’ experience.

“She interviewed really, really well. She has a master’s in urban planning, she worked as a planner for Albany and she completed a comprehensive plan for the town of Plattsburgh with has a waterfront portion, which is very similar to what we’re trying to do here in the city of Dunkirk,” he said. “… We came to terms on the agreement, so now I need council’s approval to bring her on board.”

Yanus is a native of Jamestown and would be paid $50,000 a year if the contract in resolution 77 is approved.

Also on the agenda is resolution 80 to terminate agreement with independent contractor Wendy Spinuzza. Rosas explained the city is in the process of making her an employee in order to give the zoning inspector more control over the position.

Unfinished business includes resolution 75 to accept a bid for interior coating of the Benton Street water tank that was tabled at the last meeting. Also unfinished is resolution 76 to amend the city’s political sign law, which was deemed unconstitutional. The public hearing for this will be held prior to the meeting at 5:20 p.m.

A communication from Treasurer Mark Woods will notify his appointment of Richard Olrogg as deputy city treasurer until the end of 2017.

Council will also consider requests from SUNY Fredonia to hold a beach cleanup at Point Gratiot on Sept. 17, from Mark Tredo to purchase the 633 Deer St. lot and from Iglesia Pentecostal Un Nuevo Nacimiento for a service in Washington Park on Sept. 10 as well as a loud speaker permit for the church’s event.

Also, notices of claim were filed by Clifton Thomas for alleged damages to his vehicle sustained while driving on Lucas Avenue and from Kimberly Caine for alleged injuries received while walking on the sidewalk in front of 328 Central Avenue.

A workshop will be held prior to the meeting at 5:30 p.m.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today