LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Lawton City Council voted to do something about its short staffed engineering department on Tuesday night. For about three years, the department has been putting double the workload on their two engineers to cover the work usually done by five.
In a quick vote in the consent agenda, the city entered into an agreement with EST, an engineering firm based out of OKC with an office in Lawton.
City Manager Jerry Ihler said the city's project load has grown with $80 million worth of projects going on right now.
"I've been here 35 years, and from a construction, design CIP project, we are probably have as many projects and as much funding to work on projects as we've ever had," Ihler said.
This isn't the first time the city has brought on a firm to lend a hand.
"We have a firm that's on retainer for environmental specialty projects," Ihler said. "We use they periodically if we require some environmental work in a specialty area."
Ihler said it's tough to bring in engineers to work for the city.
"With the overall reduction and shorten of engineers in general," Ihler said. "And with pay because their is a shortage, the pay is a little greater of some of the other areas of the country. It's been difficult to fill the engineer vacancies."
He said they have one entry level position and three needing more experience, but because of the need, they are willing to bend the rules.
"We are willing to fill that position with an engineer in training, and engineer out of school," Ihler said.
Ihler said he hopes that attracts engineers who want to see a project from start to finish.
"Not a lot of young engineers get to utilize or gain that experience so it's a wonderful training ground for young engineers," Ihler said.
Also, City Council voted to extend City Manager Jerry Ihler's contract by one year.
Approved on Tuesday was a new traffic signal and intersection changes to Gore Boulevard and Railroad Avenue where the city's new public safety facility is under construction. Staff wanted emergency vehicles to be able safely exit the facility. Reconstruction and new street lights were also approved for Larrance Street, which runs along the facility.
This project should cost between $2.5 to $2.75 million.