2014-01-16 / Front Page

Council unsatisfied with consolidation proposal

Town Administrator Kevin Paicos recommended plan
By Margo Sullivan

At a special workshop Tuesday, Town Administrator Kevin Paicos answered criticism from members of the Town Council over his plan to put the Public Works Department in charge of maintenance for parks and recreation.

His action plan was based on recommendations by consultants from the University of Massachusetts but called for the elimination of one job, the coordinator of the town’s geographical information system.

Especially because a job might be eliminated as a part of the reorganization, the councilors expected Paicos to present multiple options, Councilor Mary Meagher said on Jan. 14.

It’s easier to be a critic, she acknowledged, but by presenting only one option, Meagher thought Paicos had implied the decision to reshuffle the department was a “fait accompli.”

That was not so, she said.

“It’s become clear to me, I may have missed the mark,” he said. “I thought what the council wanted from staff was a review of these recommendations and commentary on agreement or disagreement.”

He continued, “And if we agreed, then how we would implement it.”

Paicos said he had a series of meetings with town staff and they went through the list of recommendations one at a time. He didn’t look at other options for consolidating maintenance because “it’s kind of a given,” he explained, that public works jobs should be managed by a Public Works Department.

Meagher said she believed Paicos did do as the council asked but they are now at the “next level.” She provided two typed pages of questions and comments that she hoped Paicos and the councilors would address.

“We can’t assume the recommendations should all be adopted,” she said.

Paicos had discussed the report extensively with Recreation Director Bill Piva, but Meagher said the councilors wanted to hear from other department heads, such as Finance Director Tina Collins and Town Planner Lisa Bryer.

Paicos replied he had met with the department heads before he presented his action plan to the council and had incorporated their ideas.

Paicos looked at the two pages of typed comments. “I frankly would have presumed I have already done what this is asking for,” he said. “So I’m a bit confused.”

Council President Kristine Trocki said she was confused, too. Trocki just returned from vacation and had been receiving numerous email messages about the plans for the two departments.

“We’re talking about recreation here, and then all of a sudden there’s a job issue,” she said. “How did we get to a job at DPW when we haven’t vetted recreation? Then the emails started pouring in.”

Trocki said she could understand the maintenance consolidation is an option, but she expected other options.

“I want to be very thoughtful about this,” she said.

Trocki isn’t sure how the recreation staff feels about the report, she added, or whether Town Engineer Michael Gray really wants his Public Works Department to take over the parks maintenance.

“Mike’s report gave an option,” she said, referring to a memo Gray wrote to outline the consequences of consolidating parks maintenance under DPW.

“But I don’t know if that’s even your recommendation,” Trocki said, turning to Gray.

When the councilors hired the consultants to evaluate the rec department, they wanted to come up with a plan that would serve community needs, she said.

According the Trocki, the council’s goal was to answer questions about what services the town would provide.

“We want to be very thoughtful and not just looking at this piecemeal,” she said.

Trocki said she doesn’t feel councilors are ready to make “big decisions about a potential reorganization.”

The discussions may be going on behind the scenes, she acknowledged, “But I don’t feel I have that information.”

Meagher summed up the situation by saying the council has a survey with recommendations, and some would amount to “low-hanging fruit,” meaning changes that would be easy to undertake.

But other changes would be contingent on grappling with bigger issues, she said.

For example, should the town create a community service department to manage senior programs, recreation and other entities, such as a veterans administration?

Should Jamestown write a strategic plan? Should the town separate the parks division from the recreation division? And if so, what would happen to the staff?

“What are the options?” Meagher asked. Paicos only looked at giving public works the maintenance of the parks, she said.

“Can we see some of the others?” she requested.

Councilor Thomas Tighe said he and Meagher did go to see Paicos to discuss the plan to move parks maintenance to public works.

“I’m not so sure it needs to go under public works,” he said. As another option, Tighe asked if the maintenance could be consolidated with the School Department.

Paicos responded with a chart showing several scenarios for the future of the two departments.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said.

Although many of the recommendations are “administrative” and don’t need the council’s input, Paicos agreed the councilors will have to make the important policy decisions.

The council will resume its discussion about the study next month.

In other business, the West Ferry boatyard is expected to be sold Friday, according to Newport attorney Gregory Fater, who represents the buyer, Dutch Harbor Boatyard LLC.

If the deal goes through as planned, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joseph P. McGrady Jr. and Frederic G. Presbrey will become the boatyard’s new owners. They are the principals in the limited liability company, Fater said.

Fater and McGrady appeared before the council to ask it to approve the transfer of a lease in advance of the sale. The lease has allowed the present owner, Dutch Harbor LLC, to use town land on the west side of Narragansett Avenue for boat storage and waterfront access. The term expires on Dec. 31,2015.

Dutch Harbor LLC belongs to Alison Eichler.

“The current lessee and my clients respectfully request the written consent of the town of Jamestown of the assignment of that lease to their entity, Dutch Harbor Boatyard LLC,” Fater wrote in a letter dated Jan. 9.

The council approval was required per the terms of the lease, he indicated.

Jamestown Attorney John Murphy represented Eichler.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero said by assigning the lease, Eichler and Dutch Harbor LLC would be released from any legal obligations. The paperwork also included a purchase and sale agreement for the property. Ruggiero did not have time to review those agreements and recommended the councilors approve the lease assignment subject to his review. However, he noted the subordinate agreements appeared to be “pretty standard” and should not pose any problem.

Finance Director Tina Collins said she also reviewed the lease and the personal financial data of the new owners and recommended approval “without hesitation.”

Trocki said she was happy to see a “nice seamless transition,” and Meagher welcomed McGrady to Jamestown.

“We’re really excited,” McGrady said. “We’re looking forward to becoming part of the community.”

McGrady has five children, he added. The youngest will attend the Jamestown schools.

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