Coming in 2021: Fairfield seeks city manager, Fairfield Twp. focuses on multi-million dollar projects

As the city of Fairfield will look to find a new top administrator this year as its biggest focus to start this year, Fairfield Twp. is moving to complete two multi-million dollar projects.

Fairfield City Council will begin planning its approach in its search for the next city manager today. Former City Manager Mark Wendling resigned, and current Assistant City Manager Dan Went starts as Vandalia’s city manager next month. Since Dec. 11, Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett has been acting city manager, a position he could be in for the next few months.

Mayor Steve Miller anticipates City Council holding at least two special meetings per month to discuss city manager search. Today’s 6 p.m. meeting may also include an executive session.

Public Utilities will see big dollars spent on projects. This spring, 5,700-plus feet of a 1950s-era cast iron water main around the Winton and Resor roads area will be replaced this spring to provide “more reliable water service to city utility customers,” said Fairfield Public Utilities Director Adam Sackenheim.

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The city is also looking at a $3 million project for a dual-purpose building at the city’s wastewater treatment facility that will replace the existing facility used for sewer sludge dewatering process in half of it.

Fairfield Twp. will see its new service building operational soon — replacing a building that was built in part shortly after the Civil War — but the remodeling and renovation of the township police department won’t be finished until the third quarter of the year. Both projects are under budget, according to the township.

“We’ve done a lot of strong work over the past few years in order for Fairfield Twp. to be poised for success in the future,” said Trustee Shannon Hartkemeyer.

In addition to the completion of the police station and service building, the start of the Veterans Memorial at Hero’s Park is anticipated to begin. The work on the memorial’s design began five years ago by a group of citizens, most of whom are Vietnam War-era veterans. The first phase of construction is slated to begin this spring. Donations can be made to the Fairfield Township Veterans Memorial Fund through the Fairfield Community Foundation.

With the township’s top two capital projects to be completed this year, Fairfield Twp. Administrator Julie Vonderhaar said the township will likely look at staffing in all departments.

“I’ve been here seven years and we’ve spent that time getting things up to speed,” she said of capital and infrastructure projects and establishing new and updated policies. “It’s all paid off, and 2021 is to get (the service building and police department) projects done and look at staffing. We’re on a great track.”

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Hartkemeyer said any staffing decisions being considered “will work with our financial position.”

Trustee Susan Berding agreed, but any staffing decisions must be made within the current budget. She said the police department staffing may be one area to consider as calls for service has increased.

“I would like to see Julie’s recommendation on staffing and what we could support,” Berding said. “I want to make sure we have adequate staffing but we have to balance that without going back to the taxpayers and asking for more money.”

The trustees are expected to hold a public hearing early next month on a proposed MI Homes development near Rentschler Estates. That project was voted down in December 2017, but there’s been a fight to build the development.

Both communities will have multiple members of their governing bodies up for election in November. Harktemeyer and Berding are up for re-election in Fairfield Twp. — both are considering re-election bids — but Fairfield will see at least three new members, including for mayor.

Miller and Council members Chad Oberson and Bill Woeste face term limits, and Councilman Mark Scharinghausen will be up for election. He was appointed following the death of the late Ron D’Epifanio, who was an at-large council member.

Debbie Pennington, a former city council member, pulled petitions on Jan. 11 for a run at Fairfield mayor. Her potential opponent, former council member Mitch Rhodus, pulled petitions the next day, but he announced his candidacy in August on Facebook.

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