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City busy reinventing service delivery
Thanks to the economic downturn, Ceres City Hall has been in a major reconstruction mode as far as departments go and the way services are provided.

City Manager Brad Kilger has been streamlining city operations for a while but budget cuts have forced a number of department heads to be eliminated - mostly to spare the city from making cuts to police officer and firefighters.

"This financial downturn is forcing cities to rethink how they provide services," said Kilger. "We're looking at how much we can do with what we have."

Last week the council eliminated Doug Lemcke's position as director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities to save approximately $160,000 per year. Filling his role on a temporarily basis is Public Safety Director Art deWerk. Late last week Ceres Police Lt. Rick Collins was given the job of overseeing the department's small staff, recreation programs and running the Ceres Community Center on an interim basis.

Kilger said the city expects more difficult financial times in the next few years and does not rule out more personnel downsizing and department restructuring. As a result of personnel cuts, Kilger said "it will take longer to get things done in some areas."

"I don't sense that there's been a lot of significant confusion," said Kilger of public contact with city services. "Two of the ones the public uses the most - public works and public safety - have not changed that much. The majority of the changes occurred internally. We have fewer administrative staff so it means our ability to cover phones and respond has slowed to some extent."

Reductions to park staff has occurred as well.

"People may start noticing the grass is not getting mowed quite as quickly," said Kilger.

This year Kilger has had to eliminate key personnel as part of budget reductions, including:

• Human Resources Manager Keith Howes;

• Administrative Services Director Sarah Ragsdale;

• Executive Secretary Kathy Holloway, who also served as deputy city clerk. (the deputy clerk position has been eliminated);

• Ken Craig, who was the Planning and Community Development Director;

• Planning Manager Barry Siebe;

• Community relations officer Enrique Perez who managed the Neighborhood Watch program as well as trouble shooting with community issues.

The broad-sweeping reorganization has brought about a number of changes that will make the average citizen's head spin.

The city has eliminated the Administrative Services Department to create a Finance and Human Resource Department (FHRD). The new department gives control of Information Technology to the city manager's office.

Officials have retitled the Planning and Community Development Department to the Development Services Department, or DSD. Kilger said with development slowing dramatically, the city's emphasis is now on engineering for capital improvements, especially with the availability of federal stimulus money. Glenn Gebhardt, who was hired as city engineer, is now interim Development Services Department director/city engineer.

Many of those who have been spared job cuts now have new titles and responsibilities.

The council eliminated the Recreation Department to combine functions with the Redevelopment/Economic Development/Housing Division to create a new Community Improvement Department. Bryan Briggs is now interim Community Improvement Department director.

Tom Westbrook, who was Senior Planner, is now interim city planner in the Development Services Department.

Kilger is taking on the role of acting Finance Director and Human Resources Director.

Taking on significantly more work is Betina McCoy, the assistant to City Manager Kilger. To conduct the business of personnel and finance - until a permanent director may be hired - McCoy has been appointed interim Assistant Finance and Human Resource Director.

"She is essentially watching the day to day functioning of finance and personnel under me," said Kilger. "She may remain in that, she may not."

Those who have taken on extra duties for the interim have been extended a 5 percent increase in base salary.

In all the city has shaved 19 positions from the budget - in a labored attempt to refrain from public safety cuts.

"I have to give the council credit. We are one of the few communities in the state that hasn't laid off any police or fire positions," said Kilger.