By Dustin Luca
---- — The town manager’s effort to add a new layer of management as he merges two of the town’s busiest departments is catching flak from some Andover officials.
Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski is working to combine Plant and Facilities and the Department of Public Works into one, single department: Municipal Services. His budget for the coming year reflects that consolidation and sets the hire of the department’s head for July 1, he has said.
The new department would operate much as its components do today. Under one roof, the town would house all of its individual maintenance divisions: engineering, highway, solid waste, street lighting, sewer, water, facility services, building maintenance, mechanical and electrical, vehicle maintenance, and a single, final division covering parks and grounds, forestry and cemetery.
Currently, those divisions are broken up into the two departments, led by acting directors Maria Maggio (Plant and Facilities) and Chris Cronin (Public Works). Before they were named as acting directors to fill posts emptied by retirements, Maggio was the Plant and Facilities business manager, and Cronin was superintendent of Highways.
Under the town manager’s plan, the two would become assistant directors, and both report to the new director of Municipal Services. The director position is currently listed in Stapczynski’s recommended budget as two 0.5 full-time equivalent positions earning $69,616 per half, or $139,232 total. Of that money, Maggio and Cronin would each get a $10,000 stipend for their appointed work as assistant directors, he said.
From there, the department could see another reorganization as early as a year later. This time, it would be orchestrated by the newly hired director and could line up with any decisions to relocate or rebuild the Town Yard happening at the time, according to Stapczynski.
“I didn’t want to saddle the new director with a rigid structure, because I wanted the director to come in, evaluate where it is at and recommended a structure to me,” he said.
The current version of the 2013-14 budget reflects the merger, and a Town Meeting vote supporting article four — the budget — would put the decision forward, he said.
“The budget is the perfect vehicle to have a discussion on this kind of a consolidation,” Stapczynski said.
But Selectman Mary Lyman argues the money for the proposed director position could be spent on other priorities.
“We’re $2.2 million apart from the schools [in the current budget process], and we don’t have to do it. These departments are functioning,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Joanne Marden, a Finance Committee member, offered her own solution.
“I think you have two very well-functioning departments, and to add another layer on top... If I was going to add to these departments, I’d add to the bottom, whether it’s additional money for outsourcing to get more work done, or it’s additional people to do the work — not a super-management person at the top,” she said. “If [the departments] are challenged, it’s for a lack of resources — not lack of management.”
The savings in the plan would be realized in turning two full-time director positions into one, according to Stapczynski.
“Under the old model, you’d have two people (the directors) paid $110,000 [to] $115,000,” he said. “Now what I’m suggesting is you have one person paid $110,000 [to] $115,000.”
Town Meeting is slated to begin Monday, May 6 at the Andover High School field house.