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Public works department to be reorganized at county

by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

Platte County’s Public Works Department is undergoing a major renovation of sorts, according to Public Works Director Greg Sager.
The decision to reorganize the department came with the hiring of Sager, after it was determined by the Platte County Commission that the department was not running as efficiently as it could be.

“We felt Greg was capable of leading public works in the right direction,” said Second District Commissioner Jim Plunkett. “We just want to be able to provide the taxpayers the best value for their money and that starts with efficiency.”

With Sager at the helm, he has begun forming a new Public Works Department that will provide the efficiency the commission is hoping to achieve.

“We’re cleaning up this public works department,” said Sager. “This will turn this department upside down. I want to make this a more user friendly, efficient and effective department. A kind of department you would expect in a first class county.”

The first step in cleaning up the department was identifying its functions.

“We identified where we were at, where we wanted to go and how we wanted to get there,” stated Sager.

With the help of the county commission, Sager developed an organizational chart that documents the four new sections which will now be under his supervision, instead of a long list of employees that performed various tasks assigned by the former Public Works Director Dale Thomas.

“All of this work was being done by whoever on any given day without a plan. I believe it could be managed better,” said Sager.

“We put together what we believe is a good organizational plan to manage the resources we have available in order to provide the absolute best services public works can for the people in this county.”

The first section under the new public works umbrella is the road and bridge maintenance section, managed by Bryan Berthiaume.

The transportation section will be responsible for maintenance of approximately 250 miles of public roadways in the unincorporated portion of the county that don’t reside in a special road district, as well as maintenance of all bridges in the county not located on state highways and that don’t reside inside cities with populations greater than 5,000. They will also perform winter maintenance on all aforementioned roads and bridges and will install and maintain road signs in District #1.

“The first sign I had (for the change in the department) was during a routine maintenance of roads and bridges throughout the county, where I realized that it was not being managed well,” he said.

“The roads master plan added to the problem that routine maintenance wasn’t being done. We put our focus onto many things besides roads and bridge maintenance for too long and we fell behind. I don’t believe we had a good road and bridge maintenance plan.”

As a part of Sager’s new reorganization the department will feature less staff positions, without firing or laying off any current employees.

“There won’t be official layoffs or firings. I told them that some of you -a few- won’t be here by February, but not because we’re firing anybody. As we build our team, some people will simply realize this is not the right situation for them to grow and prosper in and that’s okay,” said Sager.

Currently, public works has a staff of 24 full-time and a few part-time employees, with the new reorganization the department will have 23 full and part-time employees, including the creation of a new section chief for capital improvements and project engineer.

“It means the road and bridge maintenance section will be a lean, efficient section of this department. The road and bridge maintenance section will no longer be performing capital improvement projects for example construction of new roads, major bridge repairs or other large projects,” stated Sager.

“They will be the stewards of county roads trying to make sure the roads don’t fall into a state of disrepair. They will try and get those back up to an acceptable standard.”

Sager hopes that will now change with the separation of duties into various sections in the department.

“(These changes will provide citizens) a better quality of work and a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

The second major change underneath the reorganization, involves the appointment of current Director of Planning and Zoning Aaron Schmidt as section chief of the Capital Improvements Section.

“Aaron’s focus for the last several years has been on building Kansas City roads within the sales tax program,” said Plunkett. “Because the road sales tax projects are considered to be capital improvement projects, we simply felt that public works was better suited to handle that as a program rather than Planning and Zoning.”

Schmidt will move out to public works around the first of the year, while current Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning Daniel Erickson will replace Schmidt as the planning and zoning director.

“I think this is good for me and a good thing for planning and zoning,” said Schmidt. “It’s a good thing for me to be able to concentrate on these road projects because that’s where I spend a majority of my time and it’s not fair for planning and zoning or for the road projects. It makes more sense for me to be doing this and I’m excited to be doing this full time.”

Sager said he introduced Schmidt as the new section chief to the new capital improvements section on Nov. 2 at the public works department conference.

“I believe Aaron Schmidt has the capabilities of providing proven leadership to the new capital improvement section and staff,” stated Sager. “This is a huge commitment and show of support by the county commission toward our county’s civil infrastructure and I’ve enjoyed working with Aaron in the past and look forward to working with him in this new role.”

The new capital improvement section will be implemented over the winter months and prior to the start of the new construction season, according to Sager.

The construction division is responsible for all capital improvements or major maintenance projects for Platte County including major road re-construction, roads master plan, bridge replacement, bridge major repairs, storm water control and county CIP’s.

Erickson said he is excited about his new role in the Planning and Zoning Department come the first of the year.

“I look forward to serving Platte County as Director of Planning and Zoning beginning January 1. I hope to continue the good work that Aaron Schmidt has done as director of planning and zoning over the past seven years,” said Erickson.

Schmidt said he knows Erickson will be successful in his new position.

“I’m excited for Daniel to be filling this role. I’m very confident he will continue to do an outstanding job.”

Finally, Sager identified the last two sections under the “new” Public Works.

The Fleet Maintenance Section will be supervised by Robert Wohletz and the Administrative Section which will be managed by Brenda Adkison.

Fleet Maintenance will oversee the county garage which is responsible for maintaining and repairing approximately 475 vehicles and equipment that are used by various county departments. They will also hold the responsibility of keeping the Emergency Equipment ready for service, as well as road maintenance and repair equipment.


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