The work of managing Town affairs continues as we quickly transition from the Annual Town Meeting to other business. At the next Selectmen’s meeting, scheduled for Tuesday the 18th due to the Monday holiday, three formal hearings and a public forum are planned. These all take place in Room 5 at Town Hall.
The first hearing, starting at 6:00PM, is to consider the renewal of a 10 year cable television contract with Comcast. Federal law limits the extent of our contract negotiations with a cable company to funding for local access programming and associated costs. What channels are provided and the cost of cable services to residents is not an area we are allowed to negotiate. However, it is helpful to hear from subscribers about overall satisfaction with services from Comcast as we consider entering into a new contract.
The four Cape Ann communities rely on Cape Ann TV to provide PEG – public access, educational and governmental – programming. Under the new contract additional funding is proposed that will improve the quality and quantity of PEG programming. A small portion of your cable bill (less than 5%) goes toward these efforts.
A second hearing, slated to start at 6:25PM, will consider establishing new “no parking” zones in three areas of town: 1) along School Street near Sawmill Brook south to the second Knight Circle entrance; 2) near the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and School Street and 3) near the intersection of Forest Street and Ancient County Way. These new zones are being proposed by the ad hoc parking committee and have been endorsed by the Police Department. Public input on these proposed no parking zones are welcome.
After a brief hearing concerning a liquor license at 7PM, a presentation on the recently completed DPW operations audit will be made by Sandy and Buzz Stapczynski, principals from the consulting firm Human Resources Services hired to conduct the audit. This is our third departmental audit in the last couple of years designed to assess how our operations are doing and how we compare to other communities.
The report highlights a number of strengths our DPW operations has including a dedicated staff, good equipment (but a very tired main garage facility), and an aggressive capital improvement plan to make up for years of deferred maintenance. Recent efforts to streamline our snow and ice operations have been successful as has new training, with an emphasis on safety.
Also noted are recommended improvements, including exploring operating our water plant with our own staff rather than hiring an outside contractor, building a new highway garage, succession planning as we face a number of retirements in the near future, continuing staff training and implementing new performance reviews.
In comparing our operations to similar communities, the report finds that we are on the lean side for the number of personnel and that our pay is, for the majority of staff, slightly above average.
After the consultants present a summary of their report, there will be a general question and answer period for the Selectmen, members of the Finance Committee and the general public to share their perspectives and suggestions for moving the department forward.