ALPENA - Now that Greg Sundin has seen selected to be the new Alpena city manager, Alpena Municipal Council must determine if it want sto fill Sundin's former position as planning and development director, or take advantage of the budget savings by leaving the position vacant and utilizing Sundin and staff to handle the responsibilities.
The matter was discussed briefly during Saturday's special meeting, but it is likely to garner more attention as the budget process nears its finish. Councilwoman Susan Nielsen said she anticipated this would become an issue while she was campaigning for her council seat, so she studied the job descriptions of both the manager and the planner. She said to do away with the position would be unwise and to burden Sundin and his staff with the duties would not be fair to the taxpayers.
"It would be ridiculous to not hire someone. I don't think there is a human being that can do both jobs for a great length of time," Nielsen said. "Greg has done a wonderful job and I have been amazed at how he has worked with the chamber, Target, the CVB and the DDA to get the services the city deserves. But let's face it, both positions are full-time and you can't expect one person to do them both. Alpena deserves to have both positions filled."
Mayor Matt Waligora said because Sundin had served as the planning and development director for many years and held both positions for almost a year, the council will lean on him to provide a recommendation on what the best path to take is. He said in his mind he believes the position should be filled.
"There are probably 100 things we could do, but when you're talking about planning and development you're talking about things that drive us forward toward more jobs and increased revenue," Waligora said. "I don't expect to eliminate the position, but Greg has done it full-time and did both for an extended period, so his input will be critical. We will discuss it more, but right now I think it is important to get the (city manager) contract with Greg signed and then decide what direction we want to take."
Councilman Shawn Sexton said in his opinion filling the planning and development position is something that needs to be done in order for the city to move forward. He said in order to do projects money from outside sources is needed to reduce the impact on the city's budget.
"We definitely need to fill the position. It is a critical piece in fulfilling our needs as a community. The knee-jerk reaction would be to have that extra money and think we don't need the position," Sexton said. "Recent and future success were and will be done with grant money and we will need a planner to get that money. Without someone in that position I don't think we will move forward at all."
Sundin said in his time as interim manager he also was the planning and development director. He said the position was never vacant. He said knowing what he knows, he thinks someone should be hired to take over his former post.
"As of right now I'm still the director. I'll continue to hold both jobs for now. I've said all along we can't have one person hold both," Sundin said. "It is a valuable position and the staff has already taken on additional duties due to administration cuts, so I don't think we can pass it on to other people and have it be effective."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.