Committee delays hiring coordinator

Manager says six applicants weren’t qualified for job

The Intergovernmental Stormwater Committee has postponed hiring a coordinator, after advertisements netted no qualified applicants.

Six potential candidates responded to the ads, including some with government backgrounds, but none had “true” experience in the field of Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4), said Donna Fisher, manager of the Blair County Conservation District, who has been handling some coordinator duties for the committee.

Several of the applicants are fresh out of college, Fisher said.

“I’m not happy with what we have,” she told the committee.

“Let’s move to Plan B,” said engineer Tom Levine, a committee member. The nature of Plan B isn’t clear, however.

For now, committee members will review the qualifications of the six applicants, in case Fisher overlooked something.

Levine also plans to talk to acquaintances in a county to the east that has made progress similar to Blair’s in meeting its MS4 requirements.

The likely problem in attracting qualified candidates is the “newness” of the MS4 program, which is based on increasingly stringent regulations meant to reduce the amount of sediment and other pollutants carried by storm sewers into streams and thence to estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay, said Jim Gehret, committee member and Hollidaysburg borough manager.

It’s not like seeking a municipal finance director or someone for an equally established, common position, he said.

Yet the coordinator post isn’t suitable for learning on the job, given that it’s “highly technical and very specific,” said committee member Marla Marcinko, the Altoona city manager.

Committee members asked Fisher whether she’d like to take a larger role.

She’s not interested, she said.

The Conservation District is already short-staffed, said Teddie Kreitz of Keller Engineers on Fisher’s behalf.

Fisher may not want even more committee work to steal her away from her regular job, but engineers for the IGSC municipalities are already devoting more to committee work than they’d like to, because a coordinator isn’t on board, said Levine, who is one of those municipal engineers.

Maybe the committee should “cast a wider net” that includes engineering firms, Marcinko suggested.

It doesn’t appear that salary was the issue that led to the disappointing response to the ads, given that the ads didn’t specify that the committee was prepared to offer between $35,000 and $45,000, Fisher said.

It would probably require more to attract an experienced MS4 practitioner from a major state agency, someone indicated.

Committee members didn’t suggest hiring a consultant to fulfill the coordinator’s role, even though they talked about that at a previous meeting.