By Jennifer L. Grybowski, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Westborough Town Manager Kristi Williams addressed the Board of Selectman Aug. 26 regarding staffing study implementation recommendations.
Selectman Ian Johnson said he was excited about the plan.
“We are putting into action lots of improvements that can be made to how we operate and how we serve our residents,” he said.
Selectman Sayed Hashmi urged caution when considering the plan, citing the state’s high unemployment rate.
“Every dollar we spend we need to be cognizant of the instability of so many of our residents living through these times,” he said.
Williams had four major recommendations.
The first was the creation of a consolidated Community Development Department (CDD). This would include the building, planning, conservation, economic developments, all supervised by a community development director. She said a CDD would streamline customer service, help to effectively handle large-scale developments, provide a clear structure for coordinating work and consolidate functions. She recommended elevating Building Commissioner Fred Lonardo to the director position. She noted Town Planner Jim Robbins would still report to the Planning Board per the town charter, but the other departments would report to Lonardo instead of the town manager. She also noted that the relationship between staff and the boards and committees would not change.
The second recommendation was in regard to public information, to create a plan of communication with the community and increase the hours of the geographic information systems (GIS) administrator.
“This is something we talked about a lot recently, certainly due to the impacts of COVID,” Williams said.
Instead of creating an entirely new position, the GIS administrator would become the point of contact for IT needs related to social media and the website, implement communication processes, update the website, and monitor messaging and activity.
“I think this is an affordable way to approach [the need for a] public information officer by expanding the current role,” Vice Chair Allen Edinberg said.
The third recommendation was the creation of a human resources coordinator position. Williams said she was in support of this recommendation, but that she was considering the current vacant position in the Treasurer/Collector’s Office to fill that need. She said when the position became vacant in June, payroll was pushed out to larger departments. Keeping that process in place would allow a new human resources coordinator to focus on benefits and other issues.
“We have a big town in terms of employees and human resources is not getting any easier,” Johnson said.
The fourth recommendation was to issue an RFP for a contracted golf course manager, as the town’s contract with the current manager is up at the end of the year and he will be retiring. A group has been assigned to study this issue and will present their findings at the Sept. 8 meeting.
Other, future considerations include various regional opportunities, including the creation of a full time public health nurse position; designating a procurement officer in the Finance Department to potentially share with school department; establishing a stormwater utility fund; restructuring the Finance Department to further integrate staff; adjusting Assessor’s Office staffing to meet service expectations; tackling ongoing staffing holes at the DPW; and creating an IT position to support the library and other departments.
Selectmen will continue to discuss the recommendations at their Sept. 8 meeting.