NORWALK — The new city manager, as part of a major restructuring of Norwalk's government, intends to create a public safety office and appoint a team of Norwalk officials to guide future development.
City Manager Richard R. Powers announced the changes last week, two months after he shook up City Hall by releasing three key officials in a reorganization of Norwalk's management staff. The restructuring, which will take several weeks, will involve shuffling existing staff members but no firings or demotions, Powers said.
"This concludes any real massive restructuring of the city government," Powers said. "There may be some minor changes, but this will be the structure we will be operating under for a long time to come."
Among the more important changes, Powers said, is creating an Office of Public Safety at City Hall.
The city will hire a public safety administrator to run the office. One of the administrator's responsibilities will be to monitor Norwalk's dealings with the county Sheriff's Department. The city pays the Sheriff's Department about $5.7 million a year to provide police services.
Deployment of deputies within the city is now controlled by sergeants who work out of the sheriff's substation near Norwalk City Hall. The substation also serves La Mirada, Santa Fe Springs and parts of Whittier.
But Norwalk officials would like to move two sergeants and several sheriff's community service officers into the new public safety office, where they would be more accessible to city officials and residents. Community-service officers fill out accident and crime reports and provide other support services.
Cost Not Yet Known
"Too many times, residents would go to the sheriff's station and not be dealt with in a positive manner, like they were second-rate citizens," said Mayor Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez.
The Office of Public Safety will also coordinate firefighting services and handle hazardous-waste issues, emergency preparedness and animal complaints--services now handled by other city offices. The city contracts with the county for firefighting.
Arrangements to base sergeants at City Hall are pending, officials said. The cost of the additional service was not yet known. The public safety administrator will be paid $42,000 to $50,000 a year, an official said. Other elements of the reorganization are not expected to cost the city more money.
Regarding service at the substation, Sheriff's Capt. Ronald C. Black said Norwalk residents have not complained recently. "I don't see that being an issue any longer," he said.
When he initiated the reorganization in July, Powers froze 22 positions and cut spending, which said will save the city more than $900,000.
Powers last week also created what he calls a "community development team" to help guide future development in the city. The council voted Sept. 12 to spend up to $50,000 on a study to help direct future development in Norwalk. That study is to be completed in about two months, said Ernie Garcia, deputy city manager for community services.
The new team will help analyze that study and determine whether the city's General Plan must be altered to allow for future development. All recommendations from the team must be approved by the City Council.
"Norwalk is in a transition period," Mayor Rodriguez said. "We have commercial areas that have been there since the beginning of time."
The team will be composed of Larry Cheeves, assistant director of public works; Kurt Anderson, assistant director of planning; Heather Morris, assistant director of recreation services, and Mike Randall, senior planner.
The council hired Powers in July after the recent retirement of City Administrator J. Richard Streng. Powers, who earned a reputation as a talented redevelopment manager in Paramount, was brought in to bolster development in Norwalk. The council also replaced the city administrator position with a city manager with broader executive powers.
Brought in Colleagues
He wasted no time before cleaning house. Within about a week, Powers announced that three of Streng's key staff members were being released. Two of them, Redevelopment Director Michael J. Wagner and his assistant, William H. Nevius, have departed. The third, Lloyd Croom--assistant city administrator under Streng--will probably leave in January after assisting in the transition, Garcia said.
Powers also brought in colleagues from Paramount to fill key positions.
When he began the reorganization two months ago, Powers said some city offices had been over-staffed while others had been neglected. He said a reshuffling of rank-and-file employees was in the offing.