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Is Dodge making the grade?

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Council evaluating city manager

By Martin Salazar

With City Manager Timothy Dodge’s three-year contract expiring on March 31, the city’s governing body has begun taking a look back at what he has accomplished in the roughly four years since he’s been here and at some of the areas he needs to work on.

Dodge was given an opportunity to tell the council about the things the city has accomplished since he took over as city manager. He presented the governing body with a laundry list of accomplishments at Wednesday evening’s Council meeting. On that list was everything from getting caught up on city audits and even getting a clean audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30 to the hiring of several hundred youths over the last three years through the city’s summer employment program.

The majority of the governing body members appear to be happy overall with Dodge’s work, and Mayor Alfonso Ortiz has already notified Dodge that the intent is to renew his contract.

But for all that Dodge has accomplished in his four years at the city’s helm, at least one councilor highlighted an area where he is falling short: communicating his accomplishments to the community and dispelling misinformation that’s out there about the city.

Councilor Vince Howell  said that his relationship with Dodge has been “very positive.” But Howell also noted the problems Dodge has had communicating with members of the business community and other Las Vegans, and he urged Dodge to go out and tell the community about his accomplishments.

“They need to know you and eliminate some misinformation they have about you,” Howell told Dodge.  He said there’s a feeling in the community that Las Vegas isn’t business friendly.

“They need to hear from you personally, and (you need to) keep eliminating the misinformation out there,” Howell said. “The governing body knows what you’re doing. The community has misinformation and ill feelings… It’s just communicating.”

Dodge noted that the city has held numerous public hearings over the last year, and he said few people attend them. He also noted that as city manager, he is often tasked with making unpopular decisions, and he said much of the misinformation is coming from people with political motives.

“You didn’t hire me to be a politician,” Dodge added.

The agenda initially called for the City Council to go behind closed doors to conduct Dodge’s evaluation.

But Howell and Councilwoman Tonita Gurule-Giron asked that the process not be rushed and that they be given sufficient time to provide a thoughtful evaluation.

“I place evaluating your position very high,” Howell told Dodge. “I don’t want to do it in one day.”

Gurule-Giron told Dodge she isn’t looking for faults, saying she merely wants time to let him know what areas she thinks he’s doing well in and what areas she thinks he needs to improve.

The mayor and Council went behind closed doors to discuss the evaluation, and they now plan to undertake a written evaluation of him.

Mayor Ortiz voiced high praise for Dodge, saying he’s always looking to improve things.

“We’re moving ahead to no end,” Ortiz said.

Dodge told the governing body that he sees his job as implementing the governing body’s priorities. He added that the progress made at the city during the last four years hasn’t just been because of him.

“It’s not me doing this, it’s the employees,” Dodge said. “It’s making sure the directors have the proper resources.”

And he added that the city isn’t just focusing on one area like water, as many perceive. He said ever city department has an improvement plan.

Among the accomplishments dodge cited are:

• Taking over the senior centers in Las Vegas, San Miguel and Pecos last year. Dodge said the city is improving the services offered there, through such efforts as providing additional recreation services there.

• Stabilizing operations in the solid waste department. Dodge said that when he came in, the facility had no doors, trucks were broken and the city was having to hire a transport service to get its waste to the landfill near Wagon Mound, and the only material accepted for recycling was cardboard. Beyond that, he said, the department didn’t have the money to properly close its Camp Luna landfill, and the department owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to the water fund and the general fund. Dodge said a rate structure study was undertaken, and solid waste rates were increased. The result, he said, was the city was able to secure funding to close its landfill and to improve its infrastructure, and the department is paying back its loans.

• Increasing the number of parks and ball fields that are irrigated with treated wastewater.

• Replacing gas department infrastructure and implementing an automated meter reading system.

• The city police department has been accredited. Dodge said there has also been a vast reduction in payouts resulting from police department actions. He said the department is now operating under a command staff, and there are more officers on the streets. The city has also purchased 10 new vehicles to update the departments fleet.

• The city housing authority had begun to address the issues that have resulted in its being placed in troubled status. Dodge said the deal it has struck with a Santa Fe developer to build affordable apartments at the Macario Gonzales site on Mills will help address the housing shortage in the community.

• The preliminary engineering report on the city’s water system. Dodge said that to his knowledge, it’s the first time the city has undertaken such a comprehensive study on its water situation. He said the report is providing the city with very viable recommendations for improving its infrastructure.

“I think we’re moving forward on every front,” Dodge said. “If we’re not, let me know.”