An under-staffed and under-funded public works department will undergo a transition in top leadership as acting director Doug Arndt leaves his post.
Arndt served his last day as department head on Friday. Mayor Toni Harp decided not to renew his contract with the city, according to the New Haven Independent. He will be available for consultation through November while Michael Carter, Harp’s chief administrative officer, manages the day-to-day tasks of the department, according to Harp’s spokesman, Laurence Grotheer. In the meantime, the mayor is considering both external candidates and officials from within the department as replacements. The job pays $132,500 a year.
Arndt did not return request for comment. Though he will continue to provide on-site management of the department for 30 days, Arndt has been asked to take the week of August 4-8 off from work, according to a letter addressed to him by Carter dated August 1.
“Please know that your work at DPW has been appreciated and this decision is no reflection on your public works experience or knowledge but simply due to the city administration’s desire for a different management style going forward,” Carter wrote.
Harp told the Independent she is interested in bringing more public works assignments in-house, rather than contracting out work such as paving.
As the city’s budget has tightened, the Department of Public Works has lost nearly 30 percent of its personnel and 20 percent of its budget over the past 15 years.
Arndt took the department’s helm in February 2013. He said in an interview this spring that the department did not have the equipment it needed to provide services such as plowing and street sweeping. Without new trucks and other materials, core functions are maintained, but additional projects are near-impossible.
“You get what you get,” he said of the city’s investment in the department.
Arndt said he was considering the possibility of taking over some of the functions — such as storm drain cleaning — currently contracted out, the precise sticking point Harp cited in explaining his termination.
Arndt previously served similar roles in Stamford and the town of Monroe before coming to work for New Haven last year.