The Menominee City Council is pondering whether to replace its engineer, who retired recently. The council has run through this problem in fairly recent times. All signs point toward the city having its own engineer in house and not relying on contracted consulting engineers.

The issue initially was in the hands of the Judicial and Legislative/Personnel and Labor Committee. In the meantime, the city has employed Coleman Engineering, a well-known company which is familiar with the city’s programs and operations.

Alderman Bill Plemel, the senior member of the council who happens to be chairman of the committee looking into the matter, said that regulations may not permit a consulting engineering firm to be involved in actually working on the project. He also refreshed the minds of other committee members and the city manager that the city has been through this predicament in the past when it tried to work under a contracted services agreement only to go back to hiring a full-time, in-house engineer.

According to Plemel, the hiring of a consulting engineer ended up costing the city more money than it figured on, and the service wasn’t available as the city would have liked.

Mayor Jean Stegeman pointed out the city’s dilemma at the moment isn’t necessarily in filling the position, but in finding the right person. Alderman Frank Pohlmann, another member of the council who experienced the trial of having consulting engineers in place, also expressed a preference for having a full-time, in-house engineer to direct operations.

City Manager Tony Graff expressed concerns about setting up the engineering department as a one-person job with the task of performing engineering duties, directing the Department of Public Works, overseeing the Department of Parks and managing Riverside Cemetery. We think that perceived problem can be handled by having a director of public works assume much of the responsibilities with the engineer available for advice and consultation when it becomes necessary.

The city has functioned with an in-house engineer for 136 years with the lone exception of contracting out for services a few years ago, a move that wasn’t in the best interests of local residents.

We think contracting for outside engineering services to replace a full-time, in-house engineer is a bad idea.