When the city of Fairmont recently made the transition to a new administrator, there was some disagreement on the City Council about whether to promote from within or open up the process to a wider group. In the end, the council stuck with a plan that had been developed to promote economic development coordinator Mike Humpal to the top spot, consolidating his duties for an estimated annual savings of $130,000.
This decision captured the spotlight, but it has not been the only consolidation or change in personnel at City Hall. A series of them are ensuring savings as well as continuity of services as baby boomers retire and take with them their valuable knowledge. That the city had the wisdom to consider all these things and plan for them before they happened is a credit to its leadership, elected and unelected.
By our count, the city is saving taxpayers $263,000 annually through the recent moves it has made. This comes at the end of a 10-year run in which the city has reduced its workforce by 20 percent. While not everyone who works for the city may appreciate the loss of colleagues, we believe the city is to be congratulated for finding solutions to declining revenue, mainly from state aid losses, without sticking local taxpayers with the bill.
We note that the streets are still being maintained and plowed; the parks are still open; the electricity and water work; building permits are being issued; and other city services continue. We thank everyone who works for the city for doing their part amid change and tough economic times.
Finally, we have to heed Humpal's warning that City Hall cannot reduce its workforce much further. People have to be in place if services are going to continue. They have to be there to cover for co-workers' vacations or sick days. We hope taxpayers appreciate this reality.