The Sultan City Council and city staff grappled with how to fill a design and construction engineer position during a meeting last Thursday.

The job has been posted for about three weeks. City Administrator Ken Walker said he wanted the council to weigh in on the next steps. To expand the search could cost between $1,000 and $3,000, and it isn’t a process the city has previously pursued, he said.

The Public Works Department has historically been led by a two-person team, but has been done by one staffer for about three months, Walker said. With new housing growth projected for the near future, it will be important to closely look at the options if the city can’t find a licensed engineer to hire, he said.

Walker brought up the idea to hire Prothman for the hunt. Working with the Issaquah-based recruiting firm could cost $6,500 to $17,500, depending on what type of services are selected, he said.

The issue is not the salary the city is offering, Walker said; the wages are where they need to be. He said the issue is likely that the economy is so strong that there are very few candidates available for open positions.

Walker said the city also has other options, such as advertising on more websites or reducing the required skill set, which could save a couple thousand dollars per month at the highest-level salary.

So far, the job has been posted on the city’s website and the Association of Washington Cities’ engine.

“My rationale for this is, if you look at historically where we’ve been, we have not had an engineer, who is a licensed engineer, working for the city since I have been here,” Walker said.

In the roughly five years that Walker has been at the job, he said staff has largely contracted out engineering work. He said he is happy with the quick turnaround Kevin Brown at Pacific Northwest-based Gray and Osborne, Inc., has historically been able to provide, which is usually about two weeks.

“Since you have been working for the city, we’ve been in a low-growth-almost-no-growth type scenario,” said Councilmember Jeffrey Beeler. “So, engineering services really haven’t been a high priority.”

Development is likely on its way, and Beeler wondered if continuing to contract out is viable. Within the next three to five years about another 100-300 homes will be going up in the area, and potentially an additional 50 in the Eagle Ridge neighborhood, he said.

Councilmember Joe Nigel said he is comfortable with hiring an outside company for engineering work, as long as it doesn’t delay progress. He said it might mean a considerable cost savings for the city.

Councilmember Russell Wiita said he would prefer to fill the open position. He said having in-house staff that knows the big picture and sees the direction the city is going in would be valuable.

“With more revenue coming into the city we are going to be doing more public works projects,” he said. “We are going to be replacing more streets; we want our projects to work with each other.”

Nigel said he was concerned about lengthening the search for too long. Public Works Director Nate Morgan, whom the new hire would report to, according to the job description, is doing the work of two people. He said he wants to prioritize making sure Morgan’s level of engagement stays high and to prevent him from burning out.

The council agreed to expand the city’s outreach to other websites and hold off on contacting Prothman for the time being. Councilmember Rocky Walker said he didn’t see the situation as concerning just yet.