Saying he is desperate for more help, Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc said Thursday he wants to increase his office’s budget next year by 41.5 percent to hire an additional assistant and two graduate-level interns.
The city manager’s budget would increase from $403,308 to $570,657 in 2014 under his proposed budget. The budget will not be formally adopted until December.
LeBlanc currently has one administrative assistant and one assistant to the manager, Sherri Dugdale.
For next year, LeBlanc has proposed $127,379 for the salaries of the two assistants to the manager and $52,250 for two interns, it was revealed at a budget workshop Thursday.
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs could also match salaries for the interns, who would be in a master’s degree program in either public administration or political science.
The interns also could take advantage of city housing. They would work wherever needed in city government, possibly helping at the understaffed airport, as one example.
His proposed budget also covers LeBlanc’s salary of $159,132 as well as $41,766 for an administrative assistant and funding for supplies and materials.
LeBlanc and his assistant, Dugdale, are struggling to manage their workload in a city where the residents are “very demanding.”
He said The Durango Herald covers “very little of what the city does.”
LeBlanc said he constantly is filling up the “bucket” of his current assistant, noting that Dugdale had to issue a news release about a water-pipe break at the end of her work day Wednesday.
The release was not sent to the general public, but only to the households affected.
During the workshop Thursday, City Councilor Christina Rinderle was receptive to the staff additions, wanting to make it possible for LeBlanc to see the big picture of city operations without having to get bogged down in day-to-day details.
Councilor Keith Brant asked for more information so he could better defend the funding decision.
In addition to the new assistant to the city manager, the city plans to hire four more employees next year: a grant administrator, a new police lieutenant, an engineering technician and a systems analyst.
During the recession years, the city cut 37 employee positions.
Now that the economy is picking up, the city is busier and needs more help, city officials said.
In the community development department, six city planners are funneling work to one engineering technician for site-plan reviews.
In hilly Durango, all the properties that are easy to develop have already been done, so incoming proposals are for projects that are more complicated than “flat subdivisions with no problems,” LeBlanc said.
Councilor Sweetie Marbury expressed her gratitude to Greg Hoch, the director of community development.
“You’re the heart of the city,” Marbury said.
Hoch made a clarification.
“I’m more of the soul,” he joked.
This story was clarified after its original publication.