Hours after Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek recommended John Collins for the Public Works director position, one councilman sent an email voicing his opposition to the decision.
In it, Ward four's Mike Paulik said, "No one in emails to electeds wanted this."
Paulik also alludes to Collin's proposed $101,000+ salary and the city's continuing pension problems. "Is this raise the money we shorted Pete Kortum or just more waste?" he said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Vavricek defended his choice to bring Collins back after the former director left for another job last summer.
"You have to respect people that want to achieve and you want overachievers," he said. "[Collins] had an opportunity that didn't work out, but nonetheless, when you look at his qualifications and experience speaks enough that he definitely deserves an opportunity to continue. [He] left under good terms before and I know he'll definitely work very hard for the people of Grand Island."
From the City of Grand Island:
Mayor Jay Vavricek announced his recommendation of John Collins, of Baton Rouge, La., as the next public works director for the city of Grand Island.
This recommendation will be brought forward for city council recommendation at the next regularly scheduled meeting on February 12.
Mayor Vavricek said, "John is uniquely qualified to serve as Public Works Director. Of those who applied for the position, John was clearly the most qualified and with the most experience. Unlike no other candidate, his previous employment in the City gives added confidence to know he will successfully carry out the department's many responsibilities in service to the people of Grand Island."
Collins’ public works experience includes over 25 years in various statewide engineering and management positions with the State of Louisiana Department of Transportation. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Nebraska, as well as the State of Louisiana. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Louisiana State University.
At the State of Louisiana, Collins managed a staff of 89 employees and an operating budget of $40 million. Collins and his staff worked with the rehabilitation efforts during the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Furthermore, Collins also served as the Public Works Director for the city of Grand Island from March 2011 through July 2012. During that time, Collins was instrumental in implementing the Downtown Quiet Zone, developing the Wastewater Treatment Plant improvement plan, updating a dewatering feasibility study, and leading research and construction efforts on the Sycamore and Eddy underpasses.
In addition, Collins led efforts to create an improvement plan for the route to the airport, developed a plan to rectify problems with the Stagecoach detention cell, and made plans for the extension of sewer infrastructure along Highway 281 to I-80.
City Administrator Mary Lou Brown said, “While John Collins served as the public works director here at the City of Grand Island, he was a well-respected and active member of the leadership team and was instrumental in the completion of many projects in a short amount of time. I look forward to him returning as part of the leadership team.”
As the public works director, Collins will supervise the Engineering, Solid Waste, Streets, Fleet Services, and Wastewater Treatment divisions and oversees a $42 million dollar budget.
Once Collins’ appointment is approved by city council, Collins’ official start date will be determined. His starting salary would be at step 12 of the public works director pay scale which is $101,148.34 annually.
The starting salary is based on Collins’ track record of success throughout his career, his many years of government experience, and demonstrated leadership in many projects in Grand Island that were completed on time.
Furthermore, Collins transitioned many departmental tasks and responsibilities to being completed in-house, therefore saving taxpayer dollars.
Vavricek stated, “John’s leadership will be instrumental to the success of critical future community issues, such as the Metropolitan Planning Organization and federal aid street projects.”
The Public Works Director recruitment was a six month recruitment process that entailed a national search.
The process included involvement from four city council members; Council President Bob Niemann, Councilman Scott Dugan, Councilwoman Peg Gilbert, and Councilman Mitch Nickerson. Other members involved in the selection process included City Administrator Mary Lou Brown, Human Resources Director Brenda Sutherland, and Interim Public Works Director Terry Brown.