Whoever becomes the next director of the Allegheny County Department of Public Works will head up an operation scheduled to be dramatically reduced in size.
The operating budget that county Executive Rich Fitzgerald has proposed for 2013 cuts public works spending by 39 percent. Existing employees from that department as well as workers from the Department of Administrative Services would be transferred into a new Department of Facilities Management under Mr. Fitzgerald's comprehensive fiscal plan for next year.
County Council, which has the final word on spending, will begin its study of the 2013 budget this month. The review by council members gets under way as the Fitzgerald administration begins its search for a new public works chief.
Public Works director Joe Olczak, who had worked for the county since 1980, was fired Wednesday. He had been named department director by former Executive Dan Onorato in 2008. Mr. Olczak said he received a letter last week saying the county "is no longer in need of your services."
"I really can't say what their intent or their motive was," he said. His record is "impeccable" and he was caught off-guard by the county letter, he said.
Amie Downs, spokeswoman for county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, declined to comment on Mr. Olczak's departure, saying the executive's office does not discuss personnel matters.
Phil LaMay, formerly deputy director of operations and administration, is serving as acting public works chief.
Mr. Olczak, who earned $98,345 a year, had appeared most recently with Mr. Fitzgerald earlier this week at a news conference discussing the county's response to Hurricane Sandy.
Bob Macey, chairman of council's Public Works Committee, said Mr. Fitzgerald's office told him about the change in public works on Wednesday. "It is a personnel matter, and we don't micromanage," Mr. Macey said. "I'm grateful that [Mr. Fitzgerald] kept us informed. But he has the right to put together his own team."
Assuming that council approves his proposed managerial restructuring, Mr. Fitzgerald would have to screen candidates both for the public works and the new facilities management posts.
The facilities management director's job would be to create and carry out a plan for keeping up and improving county facilities and buildings, many of which have suffered as a result of long-deferred maintenance.
Under the spending plan proposed by Mr. Fitzgerald, the Department of Facilities Maintenance would have a first-year budget of $20.9 million. Almost all of that money would come from reductions in the public works budget, down $12 million from $31.1 million this year to $19.1 million in 2013, and in the administrative services budget, down $6.1 million from $25.9 million this year to $19.6 proposed for next year.