FLUSHING — Flushing City Council recently held a roundtable discussion to evaluate city departments and address Flushing’s most pressing concerns.
On Nov. 10, council members held a special meeting with city department heads to review a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis compiled by Interim City Manager Clarence Goodlein and his office. Altogether, the analysis provided an overview of city administration, the Flushing City Police Department, the Flushing Fire Department, the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) and the city’s Water Department.
In his report, Goodlein stated that each city department is reinforced with strong and effective leadership, productive employees and collaborative work practices. He also said that businesses and residents have shown general satisfaction with the city’s services and its responsiveness to complaints and problems, according a survey and review of social media that was conducted for the SWOT analysis.
Other strengths displayed by the city include its low crime rate, which has been 12 to 23 percent below the national average over the past five years; a homestead tax rate (42 mils) that coincides with the average tax rate of other communities across the state; and fees that are comparable or considerably lower than most surrounding communities.
In terms of weaknesses, Goodlein said that Flushing’s stagnant tax base, unfunded pension liabilities and widespread staffing shortages in each department are among the biggest concerns facing the city.
Goodlein said that the city’s lack of a defined benefit packages/salary structure for employees has also made it difficult for Flushing to retain and attract employees in various departments—particularly the DPW, WWTP and the police department.
“When you don’t have a defined benefits package, there’s not much incentive for people to stay,” he said. “They move on to other communities, where they can make $5,000 to $10,000 more. Attrition then becomes a problem.”
DPW Director Tony Nowiski and WWTP Director Doug Parkinson described how aging equipment is impacting their departments. Nowiski said that the DPW will soon have to replace its street sweeper and sewer truck within the next few years, while Parkinson said that the treatment plant and its six lift stations are in dire need of upgrades.
Department heads and council members also proposed ideas to help with staff recruitment and salary increases, and city council directed administration to conduct wage study increases for the DPW, the WWTP, the police department and city hall employees.
Other topics included impending retirements and staffing shortages in the police department; plans to upgrade the city’s water meter system from manual read to a radio read system; and proposals for fixing a leaking roof and other serious structural issues with the Flushing Fire Department building.
Council members also discussed ideas for a new DPW building to replace the department’s current structure, which was built in the 1930s and is no longer adequate for storing DPW equipment and vehicles.
To see the city’s complete SWOT analysis, visit flushingcity.com and click on the “public notice for meetings” tab at the bottom of the homepage. From there, click on Flushing City Council’s Nov. 10 special meeting tab to view an agenda and the entire SWOT report.