Barwick hopes for better oversight with staff changes

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

In discussing Aspen’s recent senior-level management shuffle, City Manager Steve Barwick said Tuesday that he wants better oversight of communication between city departments and the Aspen City Council.

In November, the city promoted Capital Asset Director Scott Miller and redistributed upper-level management responsibilities. The move came in the wake of a botched Utilities Department drainline project and a Parking Department scandal that cost the city between $600,000 and $800,000 since 2010.

Miller moves to Public Works director, a newly created position that will see his $127,712 annual salary increased. The city will relieve Assistant City Manager Randy Ready of his duties related to Utilities and Streets, though Barwick is contemplating additional responsibilities in addition to Ready’s oversight of Parking, Transportation, Parks and the Wheeler Opera House.

“We had some difficulties with the Castle Creek Energy Center, an outright failure in the Parking Department,” Barwick said. “We’ve got too much on Randy right now.”

Utilities, Engineering and Capital Asset will all report to Miller, who said the move results in a more “equitable distribution of responsibilities.” Miller’s promotion results in an additional senior-level position, as Barwick plans to fill the Capital Asset role, though he said at a lower level than Miller.

When asked whether he anticipates other staff changes, Barwick said, “Not that I know of right now, but I’m still looking at things.”

Aspen recently installed a $600,000 parking-meter system, replacing 81 meters that were susceptible to a scam where drivers used maxed-out debit cards to gain access to free parking. Another hiccup occurred recently when Utilities Manager Dave Hornbacher and Ready admitted mistakes in the handling of a $750,000 emergency drainline associated with the controversial Castle Creek Energy Center.

Barwick said that moving forward, the city will focus on better review of presentations and materials before the council, particularly concerning work sessions.

“Right now departments pretty much go straight to city council with very little review by the city manager’s office,” Barwick said. “We’re going to spend more time reviewing materials and presentations for city council.”

Barwick also wants an increase in public participation, similar to the city’s recent outreach involving the revision of Ordinance 19, the controversial lodging-incentive package that was passed and then repealed in the face of public referendum in August. Officials are expected to vote on the revised version in the new year.

Barwick said the idea is to gather more community input so that city staff can summarize the findings in their reports to the council.

“We want to get the community talking to itself, people talking to each other, rather than at each other or about each other,” Barwick said. “Take a little bit more time up front.”

City spokeswoman Mitzi Rapkin, Assistant City Manager Barry Crook and Community Development Director Chris Bendon will lead the outreach effort.

At future work sessions concerning the Utilities Department, Barwick said it will depend on the situation whether Hornbacher or Miller will report to the council.

Miller is currently negotiating a salary with Human Resources Director Alissa Farrell and Barwick.


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