Town Manager James McKenna told the Town Council Tuesday night that he’s pleased with the way the consolidation plan is progressing in relation to the operations of the Finance Department, Management of Information Systems (MIS) Department, and the town and School Department.
McKenna implemented the plan last year in an effort to coordinate town operations in various departments and to cut costs. One major change saw the School Department administrative offices relocate to Town Hall, making the move from the nearby E.B. Newton School building that is now home to the Winthrop Cultural Center.
“We’re encountering some challenges but what I’m very appreciative of is the willingness of the town and school staff to participate and do it with the understanding that we’re trying to create a new culture of one among the two divisions of town government,” said McKenna.
McKenna said that the leadership of Superintendent of Schools John Macero has been “crucial in this whole enterprise.”
“I think the schools have benefited from a real enhancement of financial management as well as facilities management and town has benefited from a more direct approach in some of its technology problems over the past few months,” said McKenna.
Facilities manager before Town Council
Following James McKenna’s update on consolidation efforts, Gerald Boyle, facilities manager for the town, appeared before the council to give an update on his first few months in his new position.
“How are your first few months on the job going?” McKenna asked Boyle.
“It’s been a great reception. Everyone’s been friendly and helpful. I’m happy to see that everyone is cooperative, understanding we’re all trying to get to the same goal in the end.”
Boyle said he is still in the learning phase of his job. “It’s been a challenge for me with so much going on, both the short-term urgent day-to-day needs plus trying to think a little bit long term.”
Councilors directed some questions to Boyle.
Councilor-at-Large Phil Boncore asked Boyle for an update on the ferry terminal project.
“I’m happy to report that it’s one of the best-run projects I’ve ever been involved in – it’s a great contractor,” said Boyle. “We’re on schedule. The substantial completion of the building portion is due for early March. There is going to be some concrete work and some planting that’s going to finish it off. It’s winding down and it’s looking very good.”
Councilor-at-Large Larry Powers asked about a five-year Capital Improvement Plan that Boyle addressed in a memo to the Council. “One of the issues brought forth was about converting some of our buildings to gas [heat], away from oil – is that going to be part of the plan here?
“As you may be aware, thanks to Chief [Paul] Flanagan, we just did the middle school and the hockey rink, but I haven’t gotten quite that far to see which buildings would be eligible for that. But I would always support converting to gas.”
Boyle alluded to the possibility that the town may decide to build a combined middle school/high school complex.
“We’ll be faced in terms of issues with the high school and the middle school about how much we’re going to do as a potential upgrade with the MSBA – there are going to be some hard decisions about how long and how much an investment you’re going to make.”
Councilor Linda Calla asked Boyle if his new position entailed solely advisory duties or also being involved in the physical repairing of the buildings themselves.
“I’m sure that’s not my primary responsibility, but I have on a couple of occasions taken out a hammer and saw and fixed some things,” replied Boyle.
Vice President Paul Varone asked whether Boyle had the necessary informational resources to prepare a strategy for his role.
“I’m sure if you put that question to anybody in the town, they’ll always tell you they always need more resources of some kind,” said Boyle. “I’ve been touring buildings and gathering blueprints or drawings of buildings. One of my goals is to catalog and develop a little library in my office for those kinds of resources.”
Councilor James Letterie asked Boyle if his position as facilities manager was of the 24-hour, 7 days a week type. “If a pipe breaks in the middle school at midnight, are they to call you?
“The short answer is yes,” said Boyle. “When there is any building issue with the school, the direction is to have a discussion with me first…and then move forward. The decisions on how to address these issues are going through my office.”