Sandusky has signed off on its own John Hancock.
Hancock, who owns the local engineering firm John Hancock & Associates, will oversee director of engineering services Kathy McKillips, economic development specialist Scott Schell, chief planner Carrie Handy and chief building official George Poulos.
The city hired him to lead the newly-consolidated Department of Planning, Engineering and Development, which city manager Matt Kline unveiled at Tuesday night's city commission meeting.
He will be contracted for $7,500 per month -- which equals $90,000 per year -- and work 30 hours per week through 2010, according to theagreement. He will begin June 1 and have an office at city hall, Kline said Wednesday.
"In an effort to bring an experienced professional eye to managing, directing, designing and assisting indeveloping a stronger future for the city of Sandusky, I am proposing the creation of a new consolidated department tonight," Kline told the commission.
According to Kline, Hancock will oversee, among other things, the Community Development Block Grant programs, economic development, zoning, codecompliance and inspections, housing and transit.
Because of Hancock's addition, McKillips will now have the official title of "deputy city engineer" instead of "director." Her salary will be reduced, officials said, but Handy and Schell's won't.
Kline said Wednesday residents shouldn't view this hiring as an indictment of current city employees.
"It's not a knock on them," he said, referring to McKillips, Schell and Handy. "Each of them has a talent, but they're also young. He brings a lot of experience, which we definitely need."
According to the passed ordinance, Hancock has 35 years of experience as an engineer and surveyor.
Since 1984, he has worked with the city and other municipalities by designing residential, commercial and industrial developments, as well as highway and utility projects, the legislation said.
After the city commission unanimously approved the contract, Hancock gave a short speech to the city commission detailing his qualifications.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge," he said. "My background is in construction and the private practice of engineering and survey. I have a decidedly pro-background in private development, but I've also done a lot of public works jobs over the years and I'm used to working with many, many different municipalities.
"I'll do my best to use my experience and knowledge of the city to promote the best interests of all the citizens."
Sharon Johnson, a local political activist, told the commission she disagreed with Hancock's hiring, citing the struggling economy.
"It looks like we're duplicating services. Why do we want that?" she asked. "We can't even get the grass mowed, and we're spending $7,500 (per month) on a consultant?"
She also wondered aloud how Hancock would accomplish all his listed tasks in 30 hours a week. In response, Kline repeated the city needs Hancock's skill set.
"John brings a wealth of experience and leadership in several departments in which we need. Period. We need that. Absolutely," Kline said.
On Wednesday, city commissioner Dan Kaman said he approved of Hancock's hiring, despite the steep price.
"For his experience you have to pay that," Kaman said. "I think it's a good move. He brings experience in some areas that (McKillips, Schell and Handy) don't have."