Turns out they were wrong, he said. There were enough workers - they just haven't been used properly or efficiently, according to a new report by the company that is advising the mayor in his efforts to reorganize several city divisions into a new Department of Public Works.
"They said we have too many workers and that we are too top-heavy," Fiorentini said of the report from California-based Matrix Consulting in the wake of the Highway Department scandal that resulted in criminal charges against James Flaherty and Kevin Flaherty.
"They said we could eliminate several positions and be just as effective by using seasonal help, which we have already started to do and are going to be doing more," Fiorentini said.
The mayor's plan, which would merge the departments of Highway, Parks, Water and Wastewater, Engineering and Recycling under a Public Works director, includes eliminating two supervisory positions, two laborer positions and a maintenance worker. He also proposes cutting overtime spending by $38,000. The full plan will save the city almost $400,000 a year, the mayor said.
Details about the money-saving plan come as the mayor is forecasting a $5.8 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that starts in July. Other departments are expected to face deep spending cuts in the coming months, Fiorentini has said.
The mayor's DPW plan includes hiring several seasonal workers at an overall cost of $30,000 annually. The temporary workers would be used from May to October and perform such jobs as patching roads, cleaning parks and trimming trees and bushes, the mayor said.
The plan to merge the departments requires the approval of the City Council, which is expected to take up the proposal later this month, Fiorentini said.
Last week, the mayor hired Michael Stankovich to head the new DPW at an annual salary of $110,000. Stankovich, 51, who has been North Attleborough's DPW director for the past nine years, will take over here Feb. 4.
Stankovich's experience with similar situations - he took the North Attleborough job in the midst of a scandal involving the DPW director - and in running various public works divisions in four states set him apart from more than 20 candidates for the city's DPW director's position, Fiorentini said.
Haverhill's Highway Department has been riddled with scandal since the Primrose Street garage was raided a year ago this month. The raid resulted from a state investigation of former Highway Superintendent James Flaherty and his son, Kevin Flaherty, who was also a top official in the department.
James Flaherty, who retired in April after Fiorentini threatened to fire him, has since been criminally charged with using his city position to benefit his private paving and construction business. Kevin Flaherty, who was fired last summer, faces similar charges. Both Flahertys deny the charges and await trial in Salem Superior Court.
Several other Highway Department workers still employed by the city remain under investigation for allegedly working for the Flahertys' private company while they were supposed to be working for the city. That investigation, which is being led by City Solicitor William Cox Jr. and police Chief Alan DeNaro, is expected to conclude with a report to the mayor later this month.
When Stankovich took over in North Attleborough, that town was in the midst of a similar scandal after its longtime DPW director was also accused of using his position to make money for a private company he owns.
Fiorentini's reorganization eliminates the positions held by James and Kevin Flaherty. Kevin Flaherty, who was a special projects manager, was paid an annual salary of $72,000. James Flaherty's annual salary was $92,000.
Also eliminated would be the positions of wastewater custodian/laborer, water maintenance worker and parks laborer. Those positions are projected in fiscal year 2009 to cost the city $44,000, $55,000 and $52,000, including salary and benefits.
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Public Works positions and spending to be eliminated in mayor's DPW proposal
Highway superintendent: $92,000 (previously held by James Flaherty)
Special projects manager: $72,000 (previously held by Kevin Flaherty)
Wastewater custodian/laborer: $44,000
Water Maintenance worker: $55,000
Parks laborer: $52,000
NOTE: Other changes in the DPW budget will bring the total savings to nearly $400,000.
SOURCE: Mayor James Fiorentini