River Forest trustees approved at the Aug. 9 Village Board meeting the appointment of Jeff Loster to the newly created position of director of public works and development services.
Under a reorganization of the Public Works Department Loster will oversee both public works and the building division, a move that streamlines operations and was implemented to ensure the best possible use of existing village resources, according to a press release from the village.
This change will increase efficiencies related to building and development activities throughout the village, the press release stated.
“I applaud village administration for continuing to improve the ways in which we serve our community,” Village President Cathy Adduci said. “Realignment of the Public Works Department is part of our overarching goal to continually improve operations, providing the highest quality services while utilizing existing resources and saving taxpayer money.”
Acting Village Administrator Lisa Scheiner said Loster has served as village engineer since 2013 “and has done an outstanding job leading innovative projects that have improved the village’s infrastructure.”
In a memo to the board, Scheiner recommended reorganizing management of the Public Works Department “to best align with the needs of the community as well as best practices.”
Specifically, the proposed reorganization eliminates the position of public works director and the man who held the position for seven years, John Anderson. Loster was promoted from village engineer to the director of public works and development services position and will oversee both public works and the building division.
In addition, Loster’s former position of village engineer has been eliminated, replaced with a staff engineer position, and a new position, the position of public works management analyst.
A graduate of Bradley University in Peoria with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Loster said his job title has been village engineer, but that his role has changed over the years. Prior to coming to River Forest, he was a staff engineer and development engineer at the village of Downers Grove for about six years.
In addition to holding a professional engineer’s license, he is a certified flood plain manager and a certified professional in erosion and sediment control.
When asked about his strengths, Loster said he aims to be efficient, diligent and thorough, adding that he tries to “prevent things from falling through the cracks.”
Regarding goals, he said he is hoping for a “smooth transition” to using the new permitting software the village recently purchased with a building division staff that includes a few “newish” staff members.
Addressing some possible retirements down the road is one of Loster’s challenges. Another relates to the village’s storm water master plan that was approved earlier this year. The main goal of the plan will be to identify areas of need related to the village’s sewer system and to establish future improvement projects that will help address those needs.
Loster’s salary will rise from $135,037 to $160,000, an increase that “takes into account the increased span of control he acquired as well as the expertise and professional engineer license that he brings to the position,” Scheiner said.
The current Public Works Department includes 14.5 full-time equivalent employees and two to three seasonal employees. It encompasses several functions including operations such as streets and water/sewer and oversight of construction of large development projects approved under planned development. Since 2011 the senior leadership team has included the public works director, village engineer and superintendent.
The village’s building division has previously been under the wing of the Administration Department and has three full-time employees as well as one full-time employee whose duties are split among administration, finance and building.
The Public Works Department has executed notable infrastructure projects including green alley improvements and the north side storm water management project, Scheiner said in the memo. The department’s public works superintendent, Mark Janopoulos, also has moved certain services in-house to achieve cost savings, while outsourcing other functions that can be performed by a contractor at a lower rate. For example, some forestry duties have been outsourced while emergency water main repairs have been brought in-house.
At the Aug. 9 meeting, Adduci also reappointed Rosemary McAdams as finance director and James O’Shea as police chief.
The appointment of all department heads within the village, as well as the village administrator, have terms that run concurrently with that of the village president. Village officials are currently involved in executive searches for the next village administrator and fire chief.