Petaluma's engineering department will get much-needed help in the form of two technicians set to be hired this fall.

The new entry-level hires were approved by the Petaluma City Council on July 15. The jobs were deemed necessary based on the city's long list of upcoming capital projects — such as a $4.5 million equipment upgrade at the Ellis Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility. Their salaries will range from about $59,000 to $71,000 per year, depending on their experience.

City Engineer Larry Zimmer said the new technicians' main priority will be tackling a backlog of projects. "These will be people with CAD (computer-aided design) experience and at least a two-year degree," he said. "One will be working on sewer projects and the other will work on water backlog issues. We have enough capital projects in the hopper to keep these two positions filled for years to come."

In the past, the city contracted with outside companies to the tune of $300,000 per year for this type of design work. By bringing the positions in-house, the city will spend about half that amount annually.

"When we hire outside consultants, we never get someone with the same level of expertise specific to Petaluma," said Public Works Director Dan St. John. "On the day-to-day stuff — projects that I call our bread and butter because we do them so frequently — we are better off doing the work ourselves. It gives us a chance to develop our own staff and gives a greater value to the city."

City staff will advertise the new positions soon, and hopes to fill both within the next four months.

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