Town Manager search committees formed
The New Shoreham Town Council has formed two separate committees to advise and conduct first round interviews involving the search for a new town manager. One committee is comprised of five town employees, and the other consists of seven members from the general public.
First Warden Ken Lacoste said he “put forth the idea of having two groups” at the previous Town Council meeting. The two committees would operate in “parallel universes to do the vetting of those who apply for the position.” Lacoste noted that the Town Council would make the final choice regarding the hiring of a new town manager.
“The idea will be to have the first round of applicants go through a screening process, and an initial interview process with these two search groups,” said Lacoste. “The two search groups will deliver up to six candidates for second round interviews that will be conducted by the Town Council.”
The Town Council voted 4 to 1, with Second Warden Norris Pike dissenting, to appoint Mike Shea, Vickie Carson, Lisa Sprague, Amy Land, and Robbie Closter to the town search committee. Councilor Chris Willi, who is serving as the ex-officio Chair of the two committees, made the motion, which was seconded by Councilor Martha Ball.
After three separate motions failed to pass regarding formation of a public search committee, the Town Council voted 4 to 1 on a fourth motion, with Pike opposed, in favor of naming seven members: Doug Michel, Margie Comings, Persephone Brown, Zena Clark, Kara Stinnet, William Taylor, and Jim Hinthorn. That motion was put forth by Councilor André Boudreau and seconded by Willi.
“The reason I chose seven members — I know that five might be a better number, is because I think we have a good mix,” said Boudreau, noting that the group includes “some people with many years of experience, and executive experience, in the community.”
Boudreau said his rationale involved the notion that the next town manager could “serve for twenty years in the position. And I believe this is going to be the young people’s town manager.”
The selection of the seven-member committee led to a discussion on having a quorum. Willi said that a quorum for a seven-member committee is four people. Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick confirmed that four was the correct number of people to have a quorum.
“I assume that people who signed up to be on the committee will be at the meetings,” said Boudreau.
“I’m fine with having a seven-member committee, in case a couple of people aren’t able to fulfill their obligation,” said Willi, who noted the first round of interviews would be conducted in June.
“That’s a lot of what-ifs,” said Pike. “I assume we’ll have a quorum without any problems.”
After the vote, Lacoste said, “Congratulations to those people who were appointed. We look forward to your diligence, and hard work — and the process will go on.”
“Councilman Willi is coordinating the development of the job description by the committees, and the Clerks’ office will be handling the advertising,” Lacoste told The Block Island Times.
Lacoste confirmed that the first round of interviews would be held in June.
In the meantime, Interim Town Manager Shirlyne Gobern, appointed to the position on Feb. 15, will manage the town until August or the hiring of someone to succeed her. Gobern replaced Jim Lathrop, who resigned on Feb. 10 after serving three months on the job.
2018 budget presentation
At the meeting, Finance Director Amy Land presented the Town Council with the 2018 annual operating and capital budget. Land noted that the fiscal year 2018 budget provides for a 3.6 percent increase over the current year’s budget, for a total Town of New Shoreham general fund operating and capital budget of $13,925,059.
Land noted that while the 2018 budget includes the traditional financial layout of line items, this year’s narrative portion contains detailed information that encompasses everything from a general fund debt service chart, and budget calendar, to the job description for the newly created Coordinator of Human Services position.
Noted in the debt service section of the narrative is an increase of $5,371, with debt service retirements offset by projected additional debt service for three notable items:
Interest on the anticipated Fred Benson Beach Pavilion renovations, including authorization for $150,000 of borrowing to supplement the existing $350,000 authority and a $240,000 DEM grant for a total project budget of $740,000 to $1,140,000, depending on additional DEM grant funding.
Old Town Road bridge funding of $538,000; there is a $269,000 loan already in place with the Rhode Island Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund, and existing borrowing authorization of up to $476,000.
Interest only payments on the $1.8 million Block Island Power Company note, with the expectation that the note is repaid in full prior to June 30, 2018 with the creation of the new ratepayer-controlled entity.
Land spent a portion of the meeting explaining to the new Town Council how the budget session process worked. Land explained how the budget incorporates both what is requested by town departments, and what is recommended by the Finance Department.
Poring over the information, Boudreau said he was using two chairs to accommodate his paperwork, which prompted Lacoste to quip that he was “channeling” former Councilor Chris Warfel, who often spread his work out in that manner on the dais.
Land noted that the next budget work-session, scheduled for Wednesday, March 22 at 7 p.m., would involve a discussion of the capital budget, as well as the budgets of the Block Island School, Fire and Rescue Department, and Block Island Health Services.
In other news, Lacoste said the whitepaper drafted by Tilson Technology regarding the island-wide broadband initiative would be presented at a meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 23 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The public is invited to join the Town Council and the Block Island Broadband Advisory Committee, along with Tilson Technology, and Crocker Communications for the informational meeting.
The next regular Town Council meeting is Monday, April 3 at 7 p.m.