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Utility post draws crowded slate of applicants

By Staff | Mar 10, 2011

Seventy-five applicants have submitted their resumes for the new city utilities director position, 45 of whom have a professional engineer’s license.
The deadline to submit an application was Sunday, March 6.
The licenses for those applicants who hold the PE designation are from various states including Florida, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Kansas, among others.
Cape Coral City Council set a public hearing for March 28 for an ordinance that would create a utilities division within the Public Works Department.
The director’s job would come with a pay range of $81,307.20 to $134,139.20.
As advertised, the position does not require a PE although one is preferred.
There are eight Cape Coral-based applicants as well as several from neighboring communities including Fort Myers and Collier County.
Cape Coral applicants include: Pamela Brotheridge, a former Lee County operations manager; Robert Dudley; David Holden, formerly of the Florida Department of Transportation; Richard Orth, currently an Environmental Specialist for Collier County and former interim Community Redevelopment Agency Director; James Ottensman; Bill Peak, acting Utility Manager for the City of Cape Coral; Peter Sands; and Brenden Sloan.
If City Council approves creation of the utilities division, City Manager Gary King is expected to fill the director position by late March or early April.
Meanwhile, the debate as to whether a PE license should be a job requirement continues.
If the city manager decides to hire someone without the PE designation, Councilmember Marty McClain worries the decision will lead the city into litigation.
“If the lesser qualified individual is selected, I fear a legal challenge will come forward,” McClain said. “It would be unnecessary to pay for. The right approach is to hire the qualified individual for the people of this city.”
The Florida Attorney General issued a legal opinion in 1983 that called for any “public officer employed by any state, county, municipal, or other governmental unit of this state when working on any project the total estimated cost of which is $10,000 or less” as not being required to have a PE, but beyond that scope the state calls for every professional engineer to obtain the PE for “safeguarding life, health, or property, and including such other professional services as may be necessary to the planning, progress, and completion of any engineering services,” according to state statute.
The City of Cape Coral calls for every engineering firm within municipal boundaries to employ only engineers with the PE license.
The owner of a particular firm is not required to have a PE, but each engineer under his or her employ must be professionally licensed engineers with the state of Florida.
Calusa Chapter of the Florida Engineering Society President Pat Day said the hiring of a utilities director without the PE could result in legal action, and the FES was looking at the situation.
“They’re looking at it at a state level,” Day said.
Councilmember Pete Brandt said the most important thing for an engineer to have is experience, and that some engineers make good leaders and some don’t.
Brandt also said NASA space engineers are not required to have a PE.
Brandt said King “may be reconsidering” the PE requirement for the job.
City spokeswoman Connie Barron could not confirm whether King was reconsidering making the preference a requirement because she did not have that information.
Brandt didn’t think hiring a utilities director without a PE would result in litigation, but acknowledged anything was possible.
“Anybody can challenge anything these days,” Brandt said.