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Town Council Looking at Reorganizing Town Government, Department of Public Works

The Personnel and Town Organization Committee seeks proposals for two studies from the Collins Center at UMass-Boston.

Town Councilors worry that too many department heads report directly to Town Manager Michael Driscoll, who also has his hands full with the budget. At the same time the Public Works Department could use some reorganization.

To find a solution for both problems, the Personnel and Town Organization Committee met with representatives from UMass-Boston’s Collins Center for Public Management to see if they will do two separate studies.

Town Governement Organization

One study would take a look at the town “from 10,000 feet” as Driscoll put it, and look at how the town is organized. Currently 16 of the 20 departments in town report directly to Driscoll.

Town Councilor Susan Falkoff said the town does not have a chief financial officer (CFO) or an assistant town manager, and wondered if either would make a difference.

The Council could look at changing the financial departments as places to make changes and take work off the town manager’s shoulders, said Stephen McGoldrick, deputy director of the Collins Center.

In Watertown, the town treasurer/collector is appointed to and reports to the town manager, while the town auditor is supervised by the Town Council. Both work with the Town Manager to create the budget.

McGoldrick said the town will likely have to create a new position to handle the budget. Some towns have created a position – a deputy town manager or assistant town manager – to work with the treasurer/collector and auditor to create the budget.

“No one should be under the illusion that this will be cost neutral,” McGoldrick said.

The councilors also wanted to see if there is potential for combining services provided by town and school departments, including facilities managment, information technology (IT), human resources and financial services.

Public Works Study

While the whole town government structure is being examined, Councilors also want to look at how the they can make the Department of Public Works work better.

Town Councilor Cecilia Lenk hopes the town can make changes that residents will be able to see.

“I would like to accomplish something, and put it into place fairly expeditiously,” Lenk said.

Rob Haley, an associate with the Collins Center, said the group recently completed a study of the Lowell public works department, which took about three months.

Unlike the long distance view for the town government organization study, the study of the DPW would involve a close up look at the department, Haley said.

“(In Lowell) I got down into what types of processes are used to resurface streets, for instance,” Haley said.

Watertown’s DPW provides a range of services, from road and sidewalk repair to trash and recycling to tree pruning. The department now has 33 employees, Driscoll said.

The Personnel and Town Organization Committee voted unanimously to have the Collins Center come back with two proposed scopes for studies at the next committee meeting, on May 10 at 7:15 p.m.

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