John Collins Narrowly Approved as GI City Engineer


The city engineer who left Grand Island seven months ago has been re-hired with a nearly 20 percent raise. John Collins was narrowly confirmed by the city council Tuesday evening.

The Public Works Director position had been vacant since July 2012. Terry Brown, Manager of Engineering Services was appointed as Interim Public Works Director.

Mayor Jay Vavricek said, "I'm pleased to present John Collins as my choice for appointment to the Public Works Director position." The mayor went on to say Collins' public works experience includes 25 years in various statewide engineering and management positions.

Collins however is returning with a big raise and that's left some taxpayers and council members upset. One taxpayer spoke out during the meeting Tuesday saying he won't stand with the mayor. Nearly every council member said they've received a handful of e-mails from Grand Island residents upset about the package deal -- which is Collins returning with an $11,000 raise.

Four council members spoke out against the decision to bring the familiar face back while 6 were for it. Those speaking against it said they were sticking with the taxpayers and those who wrote them e-mails and left messages.

Some council members said Collins left on good terms, and he may have thought the grass is greener on the other side, but they're glad he's returning for the job.

Peg Gilbert said after two extensive searches to replace him they couldn't find a better fit.

Those involved in the national search included council members Peg Gilbert, Mitch Nickerson, Scott Dugan and City Council President Bob Niemann.

Other members involved in the selection process included City Administrator Mary Lou Brown, Human Resources Director Brenda Sutherland, and Interim Public Works Director Terry Brown.

Gilbert said the raise is reasonable, and a professional shouldn't start from the bottom. "I think you look at the nation as a whole, professional engineers are not in abundant supply… It's not an unreasonable salary when you put it against what professional engineers make," Gilbert said.

Council member Chuck Haase said, "I'm listening to them [constituents] and salary was the one thing consistent in every message. I would support bringing him back at step 8 if he left at step 8. If he does a good job like everyone says he does then advance him the way they did in the first year he was here."

His starting salary will be at step 12 of The Public Works Director pay scale which is $101,148.34 annually. The decision to hire John Collins at the step 12 salary was approved six to four.