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City Changes Keep Coming
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As longtime Escalon Police Chief and interim City Manager Doug Dunford puts in his final few days on the job, more changes have come to staffing at City Hall.

Public Works Director Patrick Riggs was released from his contract last week, said Dunford, classifying it only as a "personal issue." In the wake of Riggs' departure, the city has done some re-shuffling of personnel to pick up the slack. Juston Collins in the Public Works Department will serve as the contact person for facilities and street maintenance, working in cooperation with wastewater treatment plant operator Matt Moran and water resources manager John Welch. City Engineer/Community Development Director John Abrew will also be available to assist where needed.

That means the new city manager, when hired, will have the double duty of finding a new police chief and a new public works director.

Escalon City Council members agreed at their Tuesday night meeting, Feb. 16, to hire Bob Murray & Associates out of Sacramento to perform the city manager search.

"They will have one-on-one meetings with the council members and the department heads," Dunford said of the search firm personnel. "They will get feedback on what type of city manager they (employees and council) want."

The council also approved bringing an interim city manager and an interim police chief on board, hiring Jim Shaw to serve as interim police chief and Henry Hesling as interim city manager.

Shaw is a retired police chief and he will likely stay with the city through the end of 2010. Hesling has served as city manager in a few cities and will spend the next few months on the job, getting the city through the budget process.

The vote was 4-0 in favor of offering the two men the short-term contracts, with Mayor Walt Murken absent.

"We're still shooting for July 1 to have the new city manager on board," Dunford said, noting that the council and staff will work right now with Hesling to get a budget in place for the city for fiscal year 2010-2011. The city's budget year runs from July 1 to June 30. Budget work will be Hesling's primary focus, while the search firm works to find a new leader for the city. With a July 1 start date in mind for the new city manager, the budget will already be in place and then the manager can get down to business searching for the police chief and public works director.

"I have a lot of faith in those coming on," Dunford said of Shaw and Hesling.

Both men come highly recommended and Dunford said he anticipates a smooth transition. They are working with him this week, as Dunford prepares to leave for his new post as Livingston Police Chief effective Monday, March 1.

Meanwhile, in other action at the Feb. 16 session, the council heard the audit report for the fiscal year 2008-2009, which ended June 30, 2009.

"We're in good shape, compared to some of the other cities around here," Dunford said, noting that the city was able to get through the year without having to draw too much on reserves.

Also approved by unanimous vote was an ordinance amending the Escalon Municipal Code, providing for a lifetime ban on the establishment and operation of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the city. The ordinance takes effect in March, 30 days after its adoption by the council.