Back to Board of Selectmen Meeting Minutes
September 15, 2009
Regular Session 7:05 pm
Ms. Burns, Mr. Rabuffo, Mr. Riley
Mr. Patch requested the Board to investigate the whereabouts of the contents of the container used for storage of an old building removed from 9 Ship Street. Mr. Hersey said the contents have been missing since December of 2008.
Committee to Develop a Naming Policy
Ms. Burns said that there were people who expressed interest in the Committee to Develop a Naming Policy. Some who are new to town affairs; some who know the town well. The Board made an attempt to steer clear of people who had been visible in the recent discussions.
Voted - to appoint the following individuals to the Committee to Develop a Naming Policy and to add to that committee’s charge to bring their proposed policy to Town Meeting for consideration.
Discussion of Request for Cable TV Equipment Funding
The Cable TV Committee has requested approval to purchase some miscellaneous items of equipment that were omitted from the original request. The requested items are necessary to get Channel up and running. Channel 10 will be run out of Town Hall. It was pointed out that the Selectmen are in charge of this Cable TV fund and the Capital Committee usually does not opine on projects less than $5,000.
It was noted that as a result of the Town’s taking on this work of providing for the showing of educational and government programs such as the selectmen’s meetings the access fee doubled. A week ago the Board approved a request for counsel from the Cable TV Committee. Comcast is supposed to raise the access fee only by the amount in excess of what they were spending previously.
Voted - to approve the Capital Outlay requests in the amount of $1453 for Cable TV
Discussion of DPW Superintendent Hiring
Ms. Burns said that at the end of the last meeting she was not prepared to vote because she needed to gather her thoughts. Since then and she has written down those thoughts.
Mr. Rabuffo said that since there was more time he wanted to socialize his recommendation to the Board. He reported that he had spoken to a number of department heads and they felt that all candidates could serve and that they could work with all of the candidates and that they could work with that individual. He also spoke to a wider circle of people that he touches base with and they agreed.
Ms. Burns then read her statement, a copy of which follows:
“My colleagues and I were unanimous in concluding that out of four candidates referred to us, there were two that we found compelling.
I have tremendous regard for our acting superintendent and the work he has done over the last few months, as well as for his previous extremely successful reorganization of the transfer station. Everything my colleagues have said in his praise I second whole-heartedly. He has my complete confidence and support. I hope he will be working at the Hingham Department of Public Works for many years to come.
I also support his goal of becoming a Superintendent of Public Works, if that’s his desire. I think he will make a great one, and has all the necessary traits to be successful.
But I do not feel that his appointment as DPW superintendent at this time is in the town’s best interest, or even in his best interest. I agree with the assessment of the screening committee that his prospects for the future would be greatly enhanced by the opportunity to work for some time as second in
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command to someone with lengthier experience and greater training, who could mentor him in his development as a manager.
As for the town’s best interest, I feel it is served by hiring the best-qualified and most experienced candidate, and the one that is the best fit for the town’s needs, and I believe that is Brian Gilbert. I feel that his training in public administration will supply many of the current lacks at the Department of Public Works, which are mainly the result of a need for trained professional management. His references were glowing for his work in Amesbury, and he has years of experience in sole charge of a Department of Public Works. He has a masters degree, but he started as a landscaper and worked his way to the top. As a result he has that valuable personal experience which helps him connect with the people who work in public works.
My colleagues made a different recommendation last week, and there are some points I don’t understand about the conclusion they reached based on our previous discussion. I would like to have some discussion of these questions.
1) When Selectman Riley made his remarks explaining his choice he ended by saying, “We’ve tried on-the-job training and it didn’t work. We shouldn’t do that again.”
One of the two preferred candidates has six years of experience as a DPW superintendent. The other has served less than a year as acting superintendent.
Which one will be learning on the job?
2) Selectman Rabuffo ended his remarks by saying that since the two preferred candidates appear equal to him, he will go with the arrangement that offers a savings.
One of the candidates has a master’s degree in public administration, and considerably more experience as a Superintendent. He brought us an example of how he has used his education to produce a budget based on goals and objectives, instead of on what last year’s funding was. This is what I am looking for.
Why is it in the best interest of the town to overlook the candidate who has both greater experience and applicable post-graduate training?
3) In answer to the conflict raised by appointing an employee to a position in which he would supervise his brother, which is not legal, my colleagues respond that “I am told” or “What I heard” was that a new plan of organization would avoid this problem. Yes, we are planning to reorganize the department, but we have never discussed any particular plan as a board.
In order to hire legally the candidate chosen by my colleagues, it appears to be required that we accept a reorganization plan which we have never discussed. I would call that premature.
How have my colleagues each individually had the opportunity to review and decide they are comfortable with a plan which I have never seen?
4) Both of my colleagues appear satisfied with this reorganization plan which solves the potential conflict of interest by removing the highway division from the supervision of the superintendent.
But we are seeking to consolidate the department, not fragment it further.
What kind of “superintendent” of public works does not have supervision of the highway division? How does this makes sense as a way to organize the department?
5) The proposed reorganization plan puts two people in charge of the delivery of public works services, both reporting to the Town Administrator. This is something we have tried before, and the results were quite negative. We are still recovering from that mistake today.
Why would we do that again? How does this make sense as a way to organize the department?
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I understand why the plan I have now heard about is appealing. It accomplishes an important goal, which is that it keeps two very valuable employees in our Department of Public Works. But I feel confident that the plan serves the town poorly, and it’s not necessary.
The town’s interest would be best served by hiring the candidate who we all agreed was appealing to us, who has the greatest experience and training, and by putting him at the top of a straightforward and sensible chain of command in the Public Works Department, including, of course, supervision of the Highway Division. With this plan, we would actually achieve the consolidation and streamlining we are looking for, while still retaining both of those valuable current employees. I recommend that we offer this position to Brian Gilbert.”
Mr. Rabuffo said he understands the issue of someone with a master’s degree versus someone with a diverse public and private experience. Mr. Gilbert had not had extensive opportunity to look at Hingham due to the lateness of his application. He remarked that with Mr. Gilbert and Randy Sylvester one is more equal. While one candidate has the MPA and did goals and objectives, other produced a DPW budget that is the most detailed Mr. Rabuffo has ever seen. He also noted that Mr. Gilbert should have expressed interest in learning more about the Hingham DPW.
As far as the conflict with the Randy and his brother – both have said it is not an issue. Mr. Rabuffo remarked that the Board made Harry report to Mr. Paicos. In the plan that Mr. Rabuffo saw that Ms. Burns had not seen, the Highway Superintendent would report to the Engineer. Given the state of the Town’s financials Mr. Rabuffo would like to see consideration for the savings available under this plan. While he did not disagree that Mr. Gilbert could do to the job, he had gone to the other department heads and got their opinions which were all supportive and he went to the citizens of the Town and he received a lot of endorsement.
Mr. Riley said that the last superintendent came from the Conservation Commission with no public works experience and it did not work. He said he had looked at Mr. Gilbert’s resume and, aside from the Master’s Degree, he did not see anything that says he is more qualified than Randy. He listed Mr. Gilbert’s experience: Boston, Superintendent of Grounds; Director of Operations in Lexington; Public Works Director in Amesbury for 5 years; Tewksbury for one year. Randy Sylvester has been in the position for a year and one question he asked the committee was – Have you heard any complaints? Mr. Riley said he knows Randy and has known him for a long time. With American Water he managed a treatment plant, was responsible for budget, responsible capital improvements, supervised 18 employees, supervised adherence to state and federal regulations and was responsible for water quality. Mr. Sylvester provided Mr. Riley with a list of 25 items he was asked to do when he went into the lions’ den. Mr. Riley said that to be quite honest, he is not sure if a master’s degree is something that is all that necessary to understand what your job is when you are dealing with a department such as a Department of Public Works. It is more important to understand what is expected of you. He gained the respect of the people working at the landfill and over a period of time made the landfill look like a public facility instead of a dump. He also increased revenue through an aggressive program of recycling. More importantly, he said he had talked with people of the DPW. In the past year Mr. Riley said he has kept abreast of what was going on over there and the effect that Mr. Sylvester has had on those employees. To look at a master’s degree as a reason to suggest that this is the only way we can get up one more notch, is wrong.
Mr. Riley suggested that, if the chair is reluctant to go along with Mr. Rabuffo and and Mr. Riley, the Board could discuss a contract and, if he does not perform to Ms. Burns satisfaction, the Board can discuss things again.
Mr. Rabuffo said that as far as he is concerned, he spent 32 years supervising people from a small group of 3 or 4 to over 6,000 and he views Mr. Sylvester as a young manager who can learn, and learn quickly. He is on a rapid learning curve and he knows where his weaknesses are. There is a lot of fixing to do in that department and Mr. Rabuffo said he wanted to continue the process that has started.
Ms. Burns said she wanted to reiterate her confidence in Mr. Sylvester. She also remarked that she thought him to be a young manager who will learn, and learn quickly but she thought he would learn more quickly if he had someone to learn from.
Voted - to appoint Randy Sylvester as Superintendent of the Department of Public Works.
Two in favor, Ms. Burns opposed.
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Ms. Burns said she looks forward to discussing the reorganization of the DPW. There are proposals for the way to solve the problem of Randy supervising his brother. Harry Sylvester has been reporting to Mr. Paicos during this interim period.
Mr. Hersey said he respects everyone’s opinion. He heard the interviews and he does not think things are going to get any better. He said he felt Mr. Sylvester has a way to go. Mr. Riley said the Board asked Randy to take over a DPW that was in flux. He did not have the authority to change personnel as he saw fit. This vote gives him that authority.
Mr. Keyes noted that during his years with the Recreation Commission Randy Sylvester has been most helpful.
Ms. Burns commented that the Board is facing a serious problem in the DPW. No one answered what kind of sense it makes to have a superintendent who does not oversee the Highway Division. Mr. Rabuffo said it is an issue the Board will have to deal with.
Ken Corson said this October the inner harbor mooring basin will be dredged. He has requested that all boats in the inner harbor be pulled by October 1 and all moorings by October 9. The contractors know that when they arrive in Hingham the boats and moorings will be out and they can begin right away. Mr. Corson said he would like the authority to levy fines if he runs into a situation where there are boats or moorings in the mooring field after this date.
Mr. Corson said that at the end of this week there will be another email reminding people that boats must be out by the end of September. If there is to be a fine or fee he will notify people in that email. Ms. Burns suggested that a possible penalty could be that there will be no mooring permit next year if they do not comply. Mr. Riley this is a 3.2 million dollar project and we have been working with the state for some time now. He said to send a message that we mean business, it should be sent through the pocket book. He recommended giving the Harbormaster the tools he needs for this project to go forward. Mr. Rabuffo said there are people around the harbor do not comply with Town By-laws. He suggested the Board needed to give Ken Corson the enforcement authority. Since the fine is $50 per day for failure to display mooring permits Mr. Corson reported that $100/day would be effective. Mr. Rabuffo said that he had been contacted by people at Lincoln Sailing and there are events after the beginning of October. Dana Baxter said he will need to have two boats in the harbor in order to move the docks for dredging. He has asked for permission to keep two boats in and on a mooring if need be. If the Board agrees Mr. Corson will give them permission.
The floats at the two marinas are going to stay in position unless they choose to dredge under them - at that point they will have to be moved. The Lincoln Maritime floats are due to come out on October 13. The rowing team has competitions. The contractor will do the dredging in sections. Contractors tend to start at the channel and work their way in. There is some flexibility but the Harbormaster will have to see what the contractor has in mind.
Voted – to accept the Harbormaster’s proposal for the management of the dredging as outlined in the proposal including a fine of $100 per day and $250 per day after three days.
The Board noted that the previous harbormaster had suggested requiring marina owners to let them know who the customers are in order to reduce the number of people who did not have mooring permits. The greatest number of these issues were in the Shipyard. Mr. Rabuffo said the City of Quincy has an arrangement whereby he goes to the harbormaster to apply for a mooring permit but gets it from the marina owner. Ms. Burns said she is hoping the Town will get into an era of writing regulations for what goes on in the harbor. She remarked that in some ways the Town has been lucky but she worries about the Harbormaster getting into a position where he does not have a by-law or regulation to make things stick.
Mr. Rabuffo said he had received 3 or 4 calls over the summer from people who were pleased with Mr. Corson’s handling of situations. He also reported that he had been stopped by a number of employees expressing safety concerns about manholes and confined space management. There are routines and
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state regulations. He encouraged the Fire Chief to have discussions about the procedures to be followed with those departments that would be in confined spaces. There have been discussions on the future of the Tree and Park Barn. Ms. Burns is putting together a study to look at all excess town-owned properties. Mr. Rabuffo said that Mr. Paicos has been here for a while and it would be useful to have a six month discussion. He asked citizens for input and will prepare a press release from the Board on this subject. Mr. Rabuffo also noted that the vintage baseball game has become a tradition and the most recent game was held this past Sunday. The extra innings game was enjoyed by many.
Mr. Riley said the Task Force for the Harbor had a great meeting last night and discussed many of the improvements that the harbormaster would like to bring forward. The next meeting is scheduled for October 5 and the task force will be discussing zoning changes for future uses that are not at the harbor today. The task force would like to know if there is going to be another economic summit that they could piggy back on. Mr. Riley said that Roger Fernandes had recommended that it would be best to allow the request to MassHighway for improvements to the rotary and surrounding roadway to go to the next level before asking for any changes.
Ms. Burns reported that the 375th anniversary will be in September 2010. The Town is beginning a year of celebrations. The first event was a cocktail party at the Old Ordinary held last Sunday afternoon.
Voted - to approve the request of the School Department to consult counsel as submitted.
Voted - to grant a temporary liquor license to Hingham Youth Football, c/o Lori
Shoyer for a social fund raiser to be held October 2, 2009.
Meeting adjourned 8:25 pm.