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Public Works reorganization to be discussed Monday

By Staff | Mar 5, 2011

Cape Coral City Council will get their first taste of the city manager’s vision for reorganizing the Public Works Department on Monday when he asks them to consider approving a new Utilities Division within that department.
If approved, the utilities division could have a director without a Professional Engineer’s license, which the city manager made an optional requirement when advertising the post.
The value of that PE license was hotly debated on Monday as council approved the creation of the job, or more specifically, the reclassification of a stormwater manager into the utilities director, which came with a pay raise.
Pay range for the position is $81,307.20 – $134,139.20, annually.
City Manager Gary King said Monday it was more important for the new director to be a good leader than to have a PE, and that engineers don’t necessarily have that key attribute he is looking for.
Councilmember Pete Brandt said Monday the license designation was more of a revenue generating device for the state than anything else, adding Friday he didn’t mean to offend anyone with his comments.
Brandt, a career aerospace engineer who also taught engineering at the Naval Academy, said the PE was “like any other license”, equating it to a lawyer having to pass the bar exam.
Brandt said he did not have a PE during his engineering career, nor was it required of him.
“It doesn’t reflect the quality of the engineer,” Brandt said.
Zana Raybon, assistant executive director for the Florida Board of Professional Engineers, said the state sees the licensure as a necessary component to regulate the practice of engineering for safety purposes.
According to Raybon, the application and initial licensure fee is $230, of which $100 is refundable if the application is denied or withdrawn.
The PE must also pay a biennial renewal fee of $130 and is required to take eight hours of continuing education. The cost for continuing education would be $200 or more for a two-year period
Raybon said the Florida Legislature created the Engineering Registration Law to protect the public, and not to create another revenue-generating device.
The utilities director job description as it’s listed on the city’s website would “substantiate the need” for a PE, according to state statute, Raybon said.
“The requirement for licensure is most certainly not to generate revenue but is, indeed, to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. Without a mandate for qualified engineers in state of Florida, the public is in jeopardy of structures and infrastructures failing,” Raybon added.
If a utilities director without a PE is hired, there are at least two city employees with the licensing who could “sign off” on plans and documentation, when needed.
This signature authority may only be applied by those meeting the state requirement.
City Spokeswoman said interim Stormwater Manager Bill Peak, and interim Public Works Director Steve Neff each have the designation of professional engineer.
Barron said the new boss” if hired without a PE, would “ask his/her PE to review the documents and sign off if they meet the required specifications”.
Councilmember Marty McClain said this seemingly inverted authority in the division might require a PE to sign off on something they might not support.
“That puts an employee in an precarious position,” McClain said. “Their supervisor says they need this signed off, and they simply sign off because their boss told them to without believing in the theories or the principals … the one that’s liable is the one with the PE.”
Brandt said the employee with the PE “wouldn’t have more power” than a boss who doesn’t, and more often than not he’s listened to engineers complain about the costs associated with the PE.
“It does bring revenue to the state,” he said. “They (engineers) often gripe about the high fee they have to pay.”
City council will hear the city manager’s plans, which include creating a utilities department, as well as merging the transportation and storm water divisions and evaluating Central services for “integration with existing core services.”
The utilities director position is expected to be filled in late March to early April, if council approves creation of the division in two weeks.