Westborough BOS reviews results of staffing study survey

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By Jennifer L. Grybowski, Contributing Writer

Westborough – At a recent meeting, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) heard a presentation from representatives of The Novak Consulting Group in regards to a recently-completed staffing study. Town Meeting appropriated $100,000 for the purpose study for all non-public safety departments last spring.

Michelle Ferguson, Novak senior manager of organizational assessment, and Joshua Rauch, Novak senior consultant, took the BOS through the report, which gives 53 total recommendations, including recommendations for five additional positions.

The study considers if each department is appropriately staffed and if existing staff is being utilized most efficiently. Novak met with 50 town staff members, and presented two surveys to the public, which garnered feedback from 102 residents and four businesses.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t get more business input,” BOS Chair Ian Johnson said.

He attributed the low response to the stress on business owners caused by the current pandemic.

An overview of the report during the meeting revealed the following suggestions:

  • Streamline the town’s governance structure. Rauch said the town has over 50 groups, and there is some overlap between functional areas of these groups, and often some of them have positions that remain unfilled.
  • Develop formal work plans and performance measures for town employees, including improving reporting relationships and span-of-control, specifically for the Town Manager. Rauch said the high volume of direct reports to the manager stunt her capacity to focus on strategic development, and that certain administrative assistants could be moved around to make for more efficient workflows.
  • Create a human resources coordinator position. The town employs 230 people and human resources remains decentralized and paper-based.
  • Create a public information officer position. Rauch reported that one of the main concerns in survey results was that people continued to identify a need for better communication.
  • Further integrate the finance department by unifying the budget, streamlining existing processes and formally adopt financial policies.
  • Create a consolidated community development office to include the building, zoning, planning, conservation, and economic development offices to streamline service and improve customer service.
  • Create a full time public health nurse position to enhance public health capacity and make for more process efficiencies.
  • Create a consolidated human services department to include senior and youth and family services to streamline case management and program eligibility requirements.
  • Develop a prioritized informational technology (IT) work plan to inventory project requests, and create an IT liaison program.
  • Develop a formal work plan for the library that maximizes the effectiveness of the renovated space, and update staffing schedule to enhance desk coverage.
  • Establish formal cost recovery goals for recreation by defining acceptable subsidy thresholds and evaluate programs to ensure they meet subsidy expectations. Rauch also recommended pursuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for golf course management; management is currently contracted out, with that contract ending later this year, so he said this would be a great opportunity to compare outsourcing to the cost of insourcing.
  • Restructure the Department of Public Works to consolidate roles and services, establish a stormwater utility and issue an RFP for automated meter infrastructure.

Ferguson said they found that overall the town is very lean with their staffing, and they didn’t see a lot of opportunities to eliminate staffing.

Selectman Syed Hashmi wondered about opportunities to regionalize some services with other towns. Ferguson said consulting with other towns was not part of the scope of this project, but said she saw several potential opportunities available with the school department for consolidation and collaboration of staff at town and schools.

“I think that’s your best way to start,” she said. “I think it would be more fruitful than looking outside.”

Selectman Allen Edinberg agreed he would also like to have seen more with regionalization within the report, especially with recreation and human services.

Johnson said he thought the report was very well done.

“People were concerned this was going to be a Christmas list and I was pleasantly surprised with what is here,” he said.

“I think it’s important for you to realize I won’t be coming to you asking for all of these things,” said Town Administrator Kristi Williams. “We will be talking to department heads, considering fiscal situation. It is going to be a long, thoughtful process.”