West Tisbury selectmen address building maintenance needs

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West Tisbury selectmen last week discussed the shortage of maintenance and custodial help necessary to maintain town buildings caused by the additional needs of the new library, the new police station and the town hall.

“The library maintenance needs seem to be the most substantial, particularly related to the composting toilets,” town administrator Jennifer Rand told selectmen at the July 23 meeting.

The toilets must be raked, and wood chips added monthly, library director Beth Kramer told The Times, a job that she has taken on but would like to shed. Ms. Kramer said that the real issue is the increased complexity of all of the new systems at the recently expanded facility. “It’s the same issue we have with the new police station and at the town hall,” she said. “Our contract with the cleaning service does not meet our needs.” She did say that she thought the cleaning service is doing a fine job.

Ms. Rand told selectmen Wednesday night that the town has tried to fill the position of facilities manager more than once and that the latest plan is to have Joe Tierney take on the responsibility of managing the facilities when he becomes the building inspector. “But to take this on did not mean, necessarily, dealing with composting toilets,” she said.

She said that she thought the facilities manager should be responsible for keeping up with the systems’ needs of the buildings, including maintenance schedules and agreements.

“The library’s needs are fairly extensive and I am not sure how we are going to go about it,” Ms. Rand said. “They have some systems that are fairly complicated and will need attention.”

In particular, the toilets must be maintained.

“I truly believe at the top of this list and probably what started all this is the composting toilet issue,” Ms. Rand said. “Because they put them in without a clear picture of how they were going to maintain them and now somebody needs to deal with them and apparently it’s not a great job and it is a hard job and who’s going to do it?”

Ms. Rand said that the town under-estimated the time that cleaning the new buildings require. She said that Ms. Kramer is requesting a full-time custodian.

Ms. Rand added that she thought the town hall is in a similar situation with general cleaning and maintenance and toilets. She said town hall is never clean enough and that the cleaners hired by the town are limited by the amount of time the town has contracted them for.

“It’s a real issue for these heavy use buildings,” she said. “The town is understaffed for this sort of thing.” She said that she has had to call in outside help to clear stopped up toilets in the town hall on several occasions.

Selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter suggested looking at an estimate of the costs and seeing if the necessary funds have may already be in the 2015 budget or if money will need to be taken from a reserve fund transfer. Both selectmen Richard Knabel and Cynthia Mitchell agreed with Mr. Manter that a more thorough study should be made of the needs and that adjustments may have to be made to the 2016 budget to cover the increased needs of the town, including the possibility of a adding a new full-time position to the town payroll.

In fiscal year 2014, which ended June 30, West Tisbury paid cleaning contractors $35,400 for regular cleaning services for the town hall, fire department, police department, and the library. The new police department and library were only occupied in the last three months of the last fiscal year.

“We estimate that in FY 2015, with the new library and police station in use for the full year, that the expense will probably increase to a little over $50,000,” town accountant Bruce Stone told The Times in a telephone call Wednesday.

In other business last week, selectmen voted unanimously to approve a new banking agreement with the Edgartown National Bank that will cost the town about $7,400, $2,400 more than last year. The new agreement covers the current 2015 fiscal year, which began July 1. The charges will be paid from funds added to the tax collector’s budget from a reserve fund transfer.

Town treasurer Kathy Logue presented the new agreement that includes a new $200 per month fee. She explained that the bank’s fees cover general checking services and include lockbox services, primarily the receipt and processing of tax payments for the town.

Ms. Logue said the town’s banking costs in the previous agreement were met by charges to interest earned on a minimum balance of town funds kept in an account with the bank. These charges to the earned interest are also a part of the new agreement, but with prevailing interest rates so low the bank’s payments were not covering the costs of the services provided, she told selectmen.

“The bank said that the new fees will still not cover the entire cost of the services provided by the bank until interest rates increase, if they ever do,” she said. The monthly payments in the new agreement will increase to $400 the second year and $600 the third.

“This gives us the incentive to look into other ways to do things that may save money,” Ms. Logue said. She told The Times that West Tisbury has begun looking into accepting tax payments by credit card, as the state of Massachusetts and the federal government do, which may reduce processing costs. “We are working on it, hopefully within the year,” she said.