Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

February 28, 2013

Consultants helping with many new hires


The Andover Townsman

---- — Community leaders should give some thought as to whether its time to limit the number of outside consultants they use.

Andover spent $15,000 on an “assessment center” to evaluate three internal candidates for police chief. This program put the chief candidates in real-life situations and gauged their responses to them. Those involved say the approach is quite effective at showing how candidates react to challenges.

The town also used an assessment center to help the town manager pick Donna Walsh as the Andover finance director. In fact, outside groups have been used to create the final tests for previous fire chiefs and, we assume, other positions dating back at least to when current police Chief Brian Pattullo went through his own assessment center.

After more than 20 years in the job, perhaps Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski or another longtime town leader has picked up some information on the approach used by the consultants, and could create their own assessment.

At least those involved with the $15,000 assessment of the police-chief candidates seem to think it was a valuable exercise. Residents may remember last year when current and former officials lambasted the work of an outside consultant who was paid $25,000 to help the town manager figure out how to combine the Public Works and Plant & Facilities departments. Even Stapczynski admitted none of the recommendations “in my estimation are earth-shattering. A lot of it we knew about.”

That wasn’t the first time the town has seemed to throw money at a consultant rather than relying on those paid or elected to perform analysis and take action. In 2010, the town paid $8,500 to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to assist with its superintendent search. That group came up with four people, two who had worked as assistant superintendents in Andover, and two who had applied for several jobs in communities surrounding Andover. In other words, the $8,500 consultant provided the town with no candidates Andover wouldn’t have quite easily found on it own.

That often seems to be the case with consultants. Officials might consider whether they should spend taxpayers’ money on them less frequently.

APPLAUSE to some quick acting pizza shop customers for ensuring there was no collision between a train and a car in Andover last Thursday night.

That night, diners at Depot House of Pizza, at 53 Essex St., heard a car’s spinning tires and went outside to investigate. They saw that a car was stuck on the railroad tracks that cross Essex Street near the pizza shop. And a freight train was approaching, albeit slowly.

A retired state trooper, Sean Melvin, got the driver out of the car while other customers frantically signaled the engineer to stop the train. The train was able to stop about 20 to 30 feet from the car.

“It’s a good thing he was going so slow,” Jovany Santos, who works at Depot Pizza, told a reporter.

The driver, whom police did not identify, apparently intended to make a left turn from Essex Street into Dundee Park, a group of office buildings, and made the turn too quickly, according to police Sgt. Cecilia Blais. The car was stuck between a rail and snow bank and the driver was unable to get traction when trying to back out of the snow.

A tow truck later freed the car. The driver was not charged.

The quick action of the pizza shop customers made sure that there were no serious injuries or destruction of property.