Facilities manager — or handy man

Or both?
Fri, 12/22/2017 - 7:45am

A recent meeting of the New Shoreham Planning Board with some of the town’s department heads to discuss capital budget requests shed a light on two notable issues: the need for a maintenance person to address minor repairs of the town’s large capital assets, and for finding a long-term, sustainable solution to keep perpetual capital budget costs down, or designate certain items under the operating budget.

While the town currently employs a Facilities Manager, Sam Bird, whose duties include providing minor maintenance and repairs to town buildings, Building Official Marc Tillson said, “I think the town has to look into having a fulltime maintenance person that can go around, with a decent wage, and do repairs — light repairs — on our buildings.”

Tillson made those remarks while asking for $80,000 to address 2019 capital budget requests concerning the Coast Guard Station property. “The interior of the building is deplorable,” he said, while also noting that repairs would cost $40,000. 

He also requested $40,000 to restore the exterior of the garage located at the Chief’s house.

In response to Tillson’s remarks regarding the need for a town maintenance person, Chair Margie Comings put it simply: “We don’t disagree with you.”

Board member Dennis Heinz asked if the maintenance person would be employed within the Highways Department. In reply, Tillson said, “I was just throwing it out there, but that’s not a bad idea.” Tillson said it could fall under the supervision of the Facilities Manager, or Town Manager.

“I would put it under Sam,” said Comings, noting that a maintenance person would be working with the town’s “public buildings,” or large capital assets. “That’s what I would do.”

Tillson said that “an attractive” wage package would be needed to attract the right person to the position.

Member John Spier said that it would have to be “somebody who is capable of doing that kind of work.”

Not every one agreed with the proposal.

“I thought we had one,” said Second Warden André Boudreau of the maintenance person idea, referring to Bird. “I don’t think the discussion should be whether we hire someone. We already did to do these repairs. If repairs are not  being made to town buildings we need to discuss with the Facilities Manager as to why. It’s in his job description.”

“As I recall, repairs and maintenance of facilities are part of the building facilitator’s job description. He is the handy man,” said Town Councilor Chris Willi, who was also a member of the Large Capital Asset Strategy committee that recommended creating the Facilities Manager position two years ago. “I would not  entertain another town position until there has been a full evaluation of the existing position which is part of the Town Manager’s job duties. I would expect Mr. Roberge to do this in due time with all departments and would consider a recommendation from him, and nothing until then.”

At a March 2015 Town Council budget work session, Large Capital Asset Strategy Committee Chair Sven Risom said the Facilities Manager would be responsible for “jumping in,” and making repairs to the town’s buildings. The LCAS was an advisory group that was lobbying for the creation of the Facilities Manager position at the meeting. The Town Council voted 3 to 1 in favor of adding the position, with Second Warden Norris Pike dissenting and then-Councilor Chris Warfel absent.

As for Bird, he told The Times that performing maintenance repairs is in his job description. “But my job description says that I am not to get buried in hands-on, tool-belt, stuff. I try not to get lost in that. If something needs to get done, and it’s an emergency, I do it. But I try to focus more on the bigger picture stuff.”

Bird said that he thought Tillson made an “off-the-cuff” remark at the Planning Board meeting, and that there has been “no serious discussion” about creating a maintenance person position. “It’s up to the Town Council to create” the position. 

“It might be helpful in the future to have a maintenance person, but we would need to have a serious discussion about it first,” said Bird, who noted that he has performed minor repairs on all of the town’s buildings. 

“I can make do at the moment.” Bird said “there’s lots to do, and it’s sometimes hard to get it all done. But how we tackle the problem is up for discussion.”