Niagara Gazette — Dyster has restored the salary in his proposed budget for 2014, but it seems as though that move will not find support on the council.
Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti told the Gazette she might support a slight increase in the salary but would not support fully restoring the line in an October interview, saying she felt the city could draw a qualified candidate from the sizable talent pool pushed out by the many area colleges and universities.
Dyster said he has talked with industry professionals and the $96,000 figure - which would be the top end of the salary range for the position - is necessary to attract an engineer qualified to handle the many larger-scale capital projects the city is engaged in and will be starting in the near future.
“We just felt, having talked to people in the market who know these things, that it was unlikely the position was going to get filled,” Dyster said in reference to the reduced salary.
A high turnover of city engineers — Dyster has seen four leave during his time as mayor — in what were at times contentious situations that were chronicled in the press could add to the challenge, Dyster said.
POLITICS AT PLAY
In addition, the politicization of the position, with engineers being “attacked” publicly by council members regardless of the quality of their work, will mean the city might have to pay more for talent, he said.
Skurka told the Gazette he felt the cut to his salary was “retaliatory treatment” and that council members were targeting his pay because he would not bend to their will, particularly on a Pine Avenue light project that he and New York State Department of Transportation engineers deemed unnecessary and possibly dangerous in a December interview.
“We also heard that those things were going to mean you would have to pay top dollar to get a good candidate,” Dyster said. “People would feel it was kind of risky to come here.”