Public works director announces retirement
Jamestown Public Works Director Steve Goslee, who has amassed a wealth of institutional knowledge during his decades at the department, is about to retire. Although his successor has been selected, it will take much longer to replace one of his key qualifications: the educational credentials necessary to serve as a certified laboratory operator.
Goslee, who started working at the department nearly 31 years ago, will step down on Jan. 5. During a recent Town Council meeting, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser announced the plans to fill the pending vacancy with Town Engineer Mike Gray.
“We are planning to consolidate the positions of town engineer and DPW director,” Keiser said on Dec. 13. “Mike, who is also the deputy DPW director, will take on the full duties of DPW director. We’re able to consolidate the functions because Steve is leaving the facilities in great shape – and he’s trained his assistants very well.”
Although potable water provided by the town treatment plant does not have to be tested by certifi ed personnel, the state has certifi cation requirements for testing the effluent from wastewater treatment plants.
Gray does not have the credentials necessary to meet those requirements, and the state Department of Health does not allow equivalency testing as a substitute for the required degree. Therefore, Jamestown “has put $25,000 into the budget for lab sampling and analysis,” Keiser said.
Both Gray and Keiser told the Council that they plan to discuss the possibility of changing its certifi cation requirements with the DOH. “Doug Ouellette has operated the wastewater treatment plant for the last 20 years with oversight from Steve,” Keiser said, “but he doesn’t have the degrees necessary for lab certification, so we’ll be suggesting on-the-job training [and service]” as an alternative to the degrees.
“We are going to promote Mike and recognize that he will have a broader range of responsibilities in the reorganized position, and a pay adjustment will be provided accordingly,” Keiser said, explaining the financial aspects of consolidating the two municipal positions.
Asked if there will be money left over from Goslee’s salary, and, if so, what the money will be used for, Keiser said, “Yes, there will be some savings from the consolidation. Steve’s role as director encompassed the management of the DPW and highway crews but also the water-treatment and wastewater personnel.
“We will realize savings in the general fund by consolidating the positions with approximately half of that salary being saved as we go into the next fiscal year. However, on the wastewater side, it appears that we will have to retain an outside lab, and, therefore, some of the savings will be reallocated to that contract.”
Keiser explained that all three operators at the wastewater treatment plant have the expertise to perform effluent sampling and testing. Reports on the testing are forwarded to DOH and Goslee – who, while providing general oversight, does not have to be physically present for the tests.
“Given the 20-plus years of experience that two of the treatment plant employees have, they have a full understanding of the procedures,” Keiser said, “and we’ve never had a finding that we’re operating our lab out of compliance with the regulations.”
Keiser is in the process of evaluating various labs for the testing. He has the discretion to select the lab that will test Jamestown’s effluent samples without first discussing his selection with the Council.
Jamestown’s wastewater treatment plant was under construction in May 1979 when Goslee joined DPW. Goslee said the performance of the plant has been “excellent,” adding that “we’ve spent a lot of time and financial effort to make sure it runs well.” Goslee, who became DPW director on March 1, 1984, noted that the performance of the newly built water-treatment plant is also excellent.
The water-treatment plant came on line on Memorial Day of 2009, which “immediately improved our efficiency from poor to excellent,” Goslee said. “We now have a treatment facility that really utilizes almost all the water that goes through it, as opposed to wasting the backwash.”
Goslee said it’s impossible to pin down the percentage of water lost to leakage once the water leaves the plant because “there are so many other things going on. You have what’s known as nonaccount water, which you use for firefighting and flushing hydrants, and you have your water meters, which are set at the factory to read two percent less than the water that’s actually used.”
The weather, which is even harder to predict, “seems to drive the major impacts on our water system, whether it’s drought or hurricanes; and those kinds of events – and we’ve certainly had our share – punctuate the careers of everyone who works in public works.”
Goslee isn’t worried that the loss of his institutional knowledge will affect DPW performance. “Whenever that happens, the next guy figures it out after a while, just like I did when I was thrown into the mix. But, we have Mike – who is very competent – stepping in. He’s been working with me for six years, and he was here for only four months when I became sick and he was thrown right into it. So he’s already had a taste of what it can be like.”