Dover Council takes closer look at city departments

Council President Timothy Slavin

Council President Timothy Slavin

DOVER — Members of Dover City Council changed the format of what it labeled a “retreat” in January 2017 and turned it into a “workshop” this year.

Instead of just bouncing ideas off each other and Mayor Robin Christiansen, council invited department heads from within the city to speak in council chambers at City Hall in a four-hour information gathering session on Friday.

It served as a chance to find out where each department stands and to promote what their biggest needs are before serious talks begin on formulating the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

City Council President Tim Slavin was impressed at all the knowledge he was able to glean during the meeting.

“I was very pleased with it,” President Slavin said. “It was a pivot for us because where in the past we were kind of feeding staff what we thought they should be doing.

“We’ve got good senior people now and it’s a stable form of government and they’re doing good work that we need to hear about and tweak a little bit. I think we’re all kind of pulling in the same direction.”

Directors from 12 of the city’s departments went up to the podium and presented their division’s mission statements before revealing facts and strategic goals they hope to reach for their department’s future.

Most members of city council were present except for Roy Sudler Jr. and Brian Lewis, who both had work obligations to attend to.

“This was about looking at the landscape,” said President Slavin. “Looking out across and kind of taking a little bit deeper dive into some of the departments.”

Presentations were given by: Customer Service (Patricia Marney); Electric (Paul Waddell); Human Resources (Kim Hawkins); Informational Technology (Andy Siegel); Library and Parks and Recreation (Margery Cyr); Public Works (Sharon Duca); Tax Assessor (Cheryl Bundek); City Clerk (Traci McDowell); Finance (Lori Peddicord); Planning and Inspections (Dawn Melson-Williams, in place of Dave Hugg, who was ill); and Police (Chief Marvin Mailey).
Councilman Tanner Polce appreciated the fact that almost all of the city’s departments were represented at the meeting, which gave council members more insight into what each department does and what they are hoping to achieve in the future.

“One, the format was great,” Councilman Polce said. “Two, just the work that our city staff continues to do day-in and day-out is absolutely amazing.
“Some of the conversation that transpired was, ‘We’re doing a lot with very limited resources, so if we’re going to continue to do more and more, where are we getting those resources from?’

“It was a really good conversation.”

It was a conversation that City Manager Donna Mitchell and her staff will now have to review and build upon as they begin to craft the next city draft budget, which is usually unveiled in May.

Last year’s $143 million budget included no property tax increase for city residents for the second consecutive year.

Mrs. Mitchell thought it was a good idea on Friday to get everybody from the city under the same roof and have a discussion and find out where the greatest needs lie.

The workshop was supposed to end with a half-hour session on planning for the 2019 budget.

That had to be put on hold because the meeting ran a little longer than expected.

Mrs. Mitchell said there is still plenty of time to take care of the budget planning.

“I think it was very informative,” she said. “It brought everyone together and let council get to know them and let them get to know council and educate (council) on everything each one of them does.

“I thought it was a good format … very good.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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