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City needs to focus on depth chart

Most Ironton residents don’t think about what happens when they flush their toilets. And next week, for the first time in more than 20 years, the main individual who did will no longer be employed with the city.

Wastewater superintendent John Haskins tendered his resignation earlier this month, effective July 24. Not only does the city lose an employee who has served residents for more than two decades, it also loses an individual who has very specific certifications and trainings. He will be hard to replace, especially at a salary level that doesn’t stack up well with similar positions across Ohio.

Haskins, by most accounts enjoyed his job, but cited a number of frustrations tied to the city’s ongoing financial challenges.

His resignation perfectly illustrates two major problems the city faces: getting its unions to be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem and creating a leadership team that has the depth for the future.

Haskins cited manpower issues, lack of equipment and problems with an employee who wouldn’t show up for work. Wastewater is an enterprise fund that pays for itself but, like several others within the city, is being crippled by employee benefit packages that are unsustainable and the unwillingness of the union to accept concessions rather than forcing layoffs.

This also shows that the city hasn’t put much thought into creating depth in its departments. What plan was in place if Haskins retired or was injured? Could the city have determined his successor and started a training program years ago? What about the city’s other departments? What happens if some of those individuals leave?

These are two fundamental components that must be resolved if the city is ever going to move forward.

It isn’t enough just to respond to the crisis at hand. Ironton must think progressively and prepare for the future.