FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
At the Selectmen’s workshop session help July 12th, the first half of the session was devoted to a critique of Selectmen meetings and a review of process as discussed in my article last week. The second half was focused on what the Board’s top priorities for the coming months should be.
High on the list is moving forward with a comprehensive communications and community engagement plan. A multi-pronged approach is anticipated utilizing an array of communication platforms and providing new ways for residents to engage with Town Hall staff, boards, and committees. Aided by the additional funding voters approved for this purpose at Town Meeting, we will be finalizing the plans and implementing new strategies over the next few months.
Another top project for this fall is hiring permanent leadership for our public safety operations. Currently we have interim Fire and Police Chiefs in place. One reason we have waited is to provide time for the shared services study with Essex to be completed to see what options it might recommend for public safety. The final report is due soon and we now know that it will not be recommending any merger of our public safety operations at this time. Thus we will begin the process of making permanent appointments.
Advancing our plans for town facilities is a third priority. Our DPW facility is very “tired” and decisions about its future are needed. Voters approved funds to design a harbormaster office near the water as well as public restrooms to serve Masconomo and Reed Parks. Design work to combine these two needs along with a spot for visitor information is about to get underway. Public forums will be scheduled once preliminary locations are identified. A Senior/Community Center is desired to better serve the needs of this rapidly expanding portion of our population. And we need to be looking ahead regarding Town Hall and its ability to continue to serve as Police Headquarters as well as home to all the other departments.
Along with facility planning efforts, each department leader is being asked to assess the staffing and other needs they see for their department over the next ten years. The number of staff has actually decreased over the past 10 years. For many departments little to no change is likely. However, for others, there could be changes depending on the service demands.
A final priority that was discussed is the need to better coordinate the work of the various town boards and committees. Now that we have a new master plan, implementing the numerous recommendations will require aligning the work of boards and committees with the goals of the master plan. Selectmen plan on convening groups of boards and committees to ensure efforts are being coordinated well, that different groups know and benefit for the work of others, and that the efforts being undertaken fit together.
Of course, in addition to these priorities, the Selectmen will be dealing with a long list of other issues that come up, from budgets to zoning and everything in between. And with 2020 being the Town’s 375th anniversary, a more enjoyable aspect will be approving and participating in the many activities planned for the year-long celebration.