City names manager for new public safety training facility

Columbus Board of Works members have approved a contract for a former hotelier to manage the new public safety training facility under construction on the city’s north side.

The city approved a one-year contract for Ray Wagner, paying $33.65 per hour for an average of 20 hours a week, said Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development, who also serves on the Columbus Board of Works.

“We’re really excited to get (him) on board,” Ferdon said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “This gives us two or three months to start. We’ve had a lot of people knocking on the door to start using it.”

The manager of the public safety building will be in charge of scheduling, managing the facility and keeping it maintained and clean, according to city officials. Using the contract figures as an estimate, Wagner would be paid a yearly annual amount of $34,996 before taxes.

Ray Wagner is the husband of Nancy Wagner, Mayor Jim Lienhoop’s administrative assistant, and brother-in-law of city councilman Tim Shuffett, city officials confirmed.

Ferdon, pointing to Wagner’s experience in facility management, hospitality and customer service, said the city followed strict hiring protocols and does not view the contract as a conflict of interest.

“He was hired as part of the normal hiring process,” Ferdon said. “His background supports the skills that we need and the position. We have a number of city employees who are married. It’s not unusual to have spouses hired (by the city).”

Ray Wagner, who is originally from South Bend and has lived in Columbus for six years, said he has more than 50 years of experience in the hotel industry and has managed the former Clarion Hotel and La Quinta Inn here.

He said he began meeting with city officials in July in a volunteer capacity to look at how new public safety facility could be used once construction is completed.

For more on this story, see Thursday’s Republic.