By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — The town manager plans to merge the town’s busiest two departments this July, but the hiring of a department head to oversee the town’s merged maintenance operations is catching some flak from town boards.
As part of his fiscal 2014 budget, Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski plans to combine the Department of Public Works with the Plant and Facilities department, creating a single “Municipal Services” department in the process.
The merger will formally begin with the hiring of a director of both departments with a budgeted salary of $139,232 in its first year.
“I’ve been working on this budget for a while,” Stapczynski said, while presenting the plan to the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee last week. “We have two good, functioning departments, but I think that what we have is an opportunity to take them to the next level.”
As it stands, the departments both play a key role in maintaining the town’s buildings, roads and more.
The Department of Public Works is responsible for town engineering, road work and maintenance, and its water and sewer operations.
The Plant and Facilities department presides over building maintenance, mechanical and electrical work, vehicle maintenance for all town departments, and maintenance for the town’s parks, Spring Grove Cemetery and forestry work.
The separate departments each have a vacant director position that have been left open in anticipation of this merger, according to Stapczynski.
They’re occupied today by two town employees on an acting basis: Chris Cronin, highway superintendent, is acting director of the DPW, and Maria Maggio, Plant and Facilities business manager, serves as acting head of her department.
Their positions are budgeted for next year at $102,677 and $82,769 respectively, according to Stapczynski’s proposed budget. With the hiring of a director, the two acting directors will be appointed as assistants and “continue to perform the primary duties and functions of their respective permanent positions.”
Meanwhile, they’ll also pick up “some additional supervisory and administrative responsibilities” with their appointments, according to Stapczynski’s budget summary for the department.
But some feel, with the appointment of assistant directors who have been handling the work without issue already, the hiring of a director isn’t necessary.
“I think you have two very well-functioning departments, and to add another layer on top ... If I was going to add to these departments, I’d add to the bottom,” Finance Committee member Joanne Marden said. “If [the departments] are challenged, it’s for a lack of resources — not lack of management.”
The money for the proposed director position could also go elsewhere in town government, according to Selectwoman Mary Lyman.
“We’re $2.2 million apart from the schools [in the current budget process], and we don’t have to do it. These departments are functioning,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
The savings in the plan would be realized in turning two full-time director positions into one, according to Stapczynski.
“Under the old model, you’d have two people paid $110,000 [to] $115,000,” he said. “Now what I’m suggesting is you have one person paid $110,000 [to] $115,000.”
With the proposal worked into the budget, approving the budget at Town Meeting would set the merger forward as proposed, according to Stapczynski. Town Meeting is slated to begin May 6 at the Andover High School field house.