Modesto City Manager Greg Nyhoff's retooling of City Hall continues, this time with a plan to split Public Works into two departments.
The City Council will vote tonight on the change. It's the third major shuffle Nyhoff has made since he became city manager in June 2008.
Nyhoff has made significant changes in the city's Finance and Human Resources departments, and installed Fire Chief Jim Miguel as acting deputy city manager.
If the council OKs Nyhoff's latest proposed switch, the Public Works Department will split into two branches. One would keep tabs on day-to-day operations such as maintaining streets. The other would plot strategies for the city's longer-term needs, especially those related to water. If approved, the change would go into effect Nov. 10.
Residents won't notice the change, Nyhoff said. "Your water will still come out of the faucet like it did before," he said. The new department will focus on making sure that water is still there 20 years from now.
Nyhoff is putting Public Works Director Nick Pinhey, an expert on water issues, in charge of the new strategy-planning department. Nyhoff said he needed to take Pinhey away from the operations side of Public Works because "he's brilliant when it comes to master planning and future processes."
The Public Works Department was last reorganized in 2004. Since then, water-related challenges, both local and statewide, have grown increasingly complex, Pinhey said. The state has seen three years of drought, government is placing ever-tighter regulations on water and a court ruling has effectively cut off the West Side's water supply.
"Right now, the competition is intense for water resources," Pinhey said. "It's certainly not going to get any less intense. It's only going to increase with population growth, global warming and higher demands."
Pinhey asked the council to divide his department, the largest in the city in terms of personnel and spending, in 2007 by breaking off sewer and water services from transportation. The council rejected the idea, citing concerns that it would cost too much.
Splitting Public Works into two departments would cost the city about $130,000. Deputy Public Works Director Dennis Turner probably would take over as interim director, Nyhoff said.
The city still is trying to fill slots that Nyhoff created with other department changes. The city is recruiting for a finance director, budget manager, human resources director and deputy city manager.