Monroe Public Works Director Douglas Arndt is leaving his position to become the new public works director in New Haven. The current public works director in New Haven is retiring, “so the opportunity opened up,” Arndt said.
Arndt began working in Monroe in January 2011. His last day on the job in Monroe was Jan. 18, although due to unused vacation time he officially remains on the payroll through the end of this month. Arndt had come to Monroe from Stamford, where he had been deputy public works director.
“I will miss the people I’ve worked with,” Arndt said during a small gathering at Town Hall organized so fellow employees could wish him well. “You have a group of good, committed people here.”
Monroe has 28 employees in public works, while New Haven has about 120 workers in its department. He will begin his new position in February, working with the current director in New Haven for a brief period to become more familiar with the Elm City. “They’ll be a little overlap,” he said of their roles.
Arndt said he’ll also be available to assist Monroe through the end of the month if any emergencies should emerge and help is needed.
Brought expertise to road paving program
First Selectman Stephen J. Vavrek, who appointed Arndt to his position, said the town will “miss him sorely. He really got our guys working together.”
In particular, Vavrek said, Arndt was able to use his experience and expertise to have the town oversee more of its road paving and improvement program rather than having to rely on a paid, outside company. “He saved the town money by using a road maintenance software program,” Vavrek said.
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Arndt said he contended with many of the same infrastructure issues in Monroe that confront other towns and cities, especially in an era of limited budgets due to economic concerns.
Vavrek has focused on trying to upgrade the town’s infrastructure, such as the roads, buildings, vehicles and maintenance equipment.
Linda A. Picheco, developmental services coordinator for the Monroe Public Works Department, said she will miss Arndt as well. “I hate to see him go,” Picheco said. “I really enjoyed working with him. He did a lot in a short period of time, and seemed to be well liked by everyone.”
The town has begun the search for a replacement for Arndt. In the meantime, Vavrek will serve as volunteer public works director on an interim basis as well as handling his first selectman responsibilities.
First day on job, firehouse roof was in jeopardy
Arndt, on Friday at Town Hall, noted he was leaving exactly two years to the day that he began in Monroe. He remembers that first day well.
“On my first day of work a roof at one of the firehouses was close to collapsing,” he said. “It was 4 p.m., and I was supposed to head home, when I was told about the roof at Stepney Firehouse No. 2. The fire marshal took me over to look at it.”
The firehouse roof didn’t collapse, but it was a snowy, cold winter that greeted Arndt, with roof concerns at various town and school buildings due to snow and ice build-up. “It was a tough winter,” he said.
In fact, during the past two years, Arndt oversaw town cleanup efforts after three major weather events — Tropical Storm Irene in late August 2011, the freak fall snowstorm in late October 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012. All three storms led to major tree damage throughout town and to extended, widespread power outages in Monroe.