Dover City Council voted to fill seven vacant positions deemed critical by City Manager Scott Koenig at Tuesday night’s meetings in City Hall despite a looming $801,700 deficit for the 2013 fiscal year.


Dover City Council voted to fill seven vacant positions deemed critical by City Manager Scott Koenig at Tuesday night’s meetings in City Hall despite a looming $801,700 deficit for the 2013 fiscal year.

Council voted to hire three rookie police officers to take the place of three cops at or near retirement. It also voted to hire three people to fill trash, water and sewer vacancies in the Dover Department of Public Works, and it transferred one worker from Public Works to fill a vacant mechanic’s position in the Electric Utility.

City Council discussed filling the positions at length in committee and then voted to approve the hires at its regular meeting later Tuesday night in City Hall.

Dover Police Chief James Hosfelt said he needed to fill vacancies coming up and he needed approval now so that recruits could join the next police academy scheduled to start on June 18. That academy will be conducted by New Castle County Police at Delaware Tech, he said.

The next full academy would likely be the academy run by Delaware State Police scheduled to start March 13, 2013, Hosfelt said. It was also likely State Police would run an accelerated academy this fall, but that would be an academy designed to train officers already working for local municipalities, he said.

New Castle County is one of the police agencies, including Wilmington, Delaware State Police and Dover that can hold police academies in Delaware given their size, Hosfelt said. Hosfelt said it was easier for Dover’s latest recruits to join New Castle County PD’s academy given the time and manpower DPD would need to run its own academy.

During committee, the council vote was 8-0, with Councilwoman Beverly Williams absent, for all the votes except for the police officers. That was a 7-1 vote, with Councilman James Hutchinson voting no.

At the full meeting, council voted 8-1 to approve the hires, with Hutchison again the no vote.

Hutchinson, a former police chief and mayor, said one of the men about to retire from the DPD was a 52-year-old who did not want to leave. But he was being forced to do so because of his time on the job, Hutchison said.

Hosfelt said that was true given that police officers must retire per city code when they have served 30 years or have turned 55 years old — whichever comes first.

But that answer did not sit well with Hutchison.

“He wants to stay three years and he’ll gladly leave at 55,” Hutchison said. He added that the officer was still physically fit and capable of doing the job.

“With all due respect, this is a conversation we should have outside [this setting],” Hosfelt said. “We can talk about how fit a guy is and how much he bench presses. But, at some point with a guy who is 55, I have some questions about whether he can do the overnight shift and wrestle with people he’s got to arrest.”

The three patrolmen would cost the city $47,994.78 in salary and $29,277.25 in benefits per year, according to city documents.

City Council also voted to hire four employees for the city’s Department of Public Works. The city will now hire:

A driver for the trash collection service at a cost of $45,604 in wages and benefits A maintenance mechanic for water/wastewater at a cost of $49,391 in wages and benefits, A water plant operator at a cost of $50,351 in wages and benefits

In addition, the city will transfer a utility maintenance mechanic who makes $74,888.09 in wages and benefits from the Public Works Department to the Electric Department.

Koenig said each of the positions filled were critical to maintaining city services.