•WHAT IT FUNDS: A few full-time workers, consisting of an engineer to help oversee about 80 full-time employees in 15 different divisions, ranging from greenhouse, forestry, transit and planning to water, sewer, streets and cemetery operations.
•WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: Oversight’s critical to ensure construction adheres to city rules and plans. Engineers also field complaints from residents about water main breaks, potholes, snow plowing, flooding issues and more.
•FUNDING WOES: The department’s budget has remained stagnant over the past few years, despite engineers assuming many more responsibilities.
But before entrepreneurs invest resources into Sandusky, they want assurance from commissioners that they’ll provide services critical for business recruitment and expansion.
Follow the money
The Register takes an in-depth look at Sandusky’s $16.3 million operating budget this week and tells readers where the money’s spent:
•SUNDAY: Dealing with a downsized fire department
•MONDAY: Cemetery services
The engineering department ensures streets are paved, plowed and patched up; water’s cheap and clean; and blighted buildings get demolished.
“The engineering department oversees community development” Sandusky engineer Aaron Klein said. “This department is so important”
So vital that commissioners have placed more responsibilities onto the department than ever before.
Klein oversees almost 80 full-time employees working in 15 different divisions, ranging from water, street and sewer to transit, greenhouse, planning and many others.
But while engineering responsibilities have significantly grown, funding has not.
City data shows engineering costs in Sandusky’s everyday operating budget remaining stagnant, from about $281,000 spent in 2011 to $284,000 allotted this year.
During a debate at a recent public meeting, commissioner Dick Brady argued engineering needs more resources, including manpower and funding.
“Infrastructure in this community is so critically important and can pull us out of this deep hole we’re in” Brady said.
Brady referenced the $1.1 million in cuts commissioners approved this past Monday, highlighted by officials eliminating four full-time firefighter positions.
Klein also handles a capital, or big-project, account outside the everyday operating budget.
Dating back to 2013, city engineers either completed or scheduled upward of $20 million in projects, including:
•Street repairs, such as ongoing construction on First Street.
•Building demolitions, including the Keller Building in downtown.
•Park upgrades, including two new basketball courts and a walking trail in Lions Parks.
“Right now, our biggest focus — and our only focus — can be completing the projects we are doing,” said Klein, referring to the 60 or so projects on his schedule. “We have so many of them and such little staff, but we really don’t have any other choice”
Fewer employees report to engineering today than in years past.
Case in point: The entire city’s work force, including a big chunk related to engineering, has steadily decreased during the past decade, dropping 25 percent from 280 fulltime employees in 2004 to 212 in December.