HERCULES -- After years of turmoil and mismanagement that devastated city programs and plunged Hercules to the brink of bankruptcy, the City Council is working to usher in an era of integrity and honor those who helped guide it through challenging times.
City workers and groups of concerned Hercules residents donated their time and talents to keep vital services afloat, according to Hercules interim City Manager Phil Batchelor.
"It's time we say thank you to our employees," Batchelor said. "And we can express that appreciation -- that doesn't cost a lot."
The city has created an annual Recognition and Rewards Program to thank employees. And, on May 7, Hercules will host an employee appreciation luncheon and present select employees with four new awards to acknowledge city workers for their hard work.
The awards are: Excellent Public Service Award -- An employee who consistently provides excellent public service by displaying tact and diplomacy in dealing with others and puts forth an extra effort to provide competent, courteous and responsive service to the public. The Extra Mile Award -- An employee who continuously goes above and beyond expectations and gives of their time and talents to support their co-workers and consistently contributes a helping hand whenever and wherever needed. The Spark Plug Award -- An employee who is positive, proactive and inspires and uplifts others by the enthusiastic and optimistic way that they interact with others. The Innovation/Creativity Award -- An employee who generates new ideas and creative solutions and constantly strives to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their work.
The winners will receive a framed certificate, a lunch in their honor and dinner for two. All expenses will be personally underwritten by the city's department heads and members of the City Council, who independently volunteered to contribute their own funds to assist in recognizing city employees and will be assisting the department heads to underwrite the cost of the awards and the recognition luncheon, according to city documents.
This year fiscal (2013-14), the city has a balanced budget for the first time since 2005, Batchelor said. Over the past few years, the city cut its staff by 40 percent in every department, and remaining staff took pay cuts of about 15 percent, but workers didn't complain and residents pitched in as volunteers to fill the gaps in many city departments, he said.
Among the groups and city personnel that Batchelor said thrived despite the cuts: Hercules police, "who did an admirable job of protecting life, property and maintaining order despite a loss of more than 38 percent of their staffing during the past three years." Police continued programs such as the Law Enforcement Explorer Program, allowing hundreds of young adults to become more self-confident and develop leadership and life skills. Residents who voted for Measure O (sales tax) and Measure A (utility users tax) that generate the revenue needed to keep the city solvent. They also served on the Citizens Finance Committee and the Measure O Oversight Committee that review the city's budgets and the quarterly reports. "Friends" groups that included Friends of the Hercules Library, who raised thousands of dollars for additional library hours for the community; Friends of the Senior Center, who continued a nutrition program and classes for seniors; and community volunteers that provided 812 hours of their time to work with the public works staff in a neighborhood cleanup program that served 535 households, and removed 67 tons of debris. The Community and Library Services Commission, local community groups, businesses and community volunteers who stepped in to cover the costs of continuing the Holiday Tree Lighting, Clean Up Day and other community events that could not be financed by the city because of budget constraints.
"There are so many people behind the scenes that we usually don't see what they do," Batchelor said.
But those dedicated residents and employees deserve to be recognized, he said.