Kirk Metell is the new acting management director of the town’s public works, facilities, and wastewater departments, putting all three under one umbrella, through a formal vote of the board of selectmen at a Friday morning meeting.
With DPW director Ray Tattersall and wastewater superintendent Paul Ernst sitting in a row in front of him, Metell sat and listened as town administrator Jay Grande sought the blessing of the board for what he’d already put in motion.
“It was really a stopgap measure until we had an opportunity to meet and put a formal vote in place,” Grande told the board. He wanted the departments under one team leader with clear direction. “It’s a model that’s been very successful,” he said.
Selectman Jeff Kristal apologized to the town employees in attendance. “We apologize for any ambiguity. Today is a way to straighten things out,” Kristal said.
That was echoed by selectman Jim Rogers. “In case you haven’t noticed, townwide we’re looking at every single department,” he said. “We’re looking at everything to see if we can facilitate smoother operations in town and meet the town’s needs without killing the budget and killing people’s taxes.”
Friday’s vote was to give rank and file employees a clear chain of command. “Our staff will have a clear chain of command — that’s what we need,” Rogers said. “I agree we don’t have to sit here right now and figure out how many people are mowing the cemetery today and how many people are mowing the parks tomorrow.”
Chair Melinda Loberg addressed the elephant in the room. “I applaud everyone’s patience — not knowing what your future is going to be is uncomfortable,” she said.
The board stopped short of approving a flow chart presented by Grande raising questions about why the planning board is included in it at all, and where the town’s parks and recreation committee should fit into things. The board asked Grande to come back with more specifics on the flow chart by August 1, as well as any budgetary impacts. The town may need to hire a facilities foreman, for example.
Fire Chief John Schilling raised the issue of Metell being spread too thin with projects at town buildings in need of attention.
After the decision was made, Grande asked Metell to tackle a pressing issue in town — overgrowth on town sidewalks.
Rogers said it’s forcing some people dangerously into the road to see if it’s safe to cross a street. He said the DPW should give homeowners a warning to cut back the growth, or the town will do it and send a bill. “It might come down to knocking on doors,” Metell said.
Friday’s decision comes as Tattersall was not reappointed as DPW director, which was the first public inkling that there were changes in leadership being made. After the meeting, Grande said both Tattersall and Ernst remain in their respective positions, but now report directly to Metell. For now, he said, the titles remain the same.
Building inspector Ken Barwick, who was in the audience, was scheduled to meet privately at 10:30 am with Grande and Loberg, a meeting that could determine his future. Barwick, who has not yet been reappointed, has been under fire for his handling of the Mill House project, a historic house that was demolished without being referred to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
In other business, the board authorized Grande to seek a grant for the Lagoon Pond Bridge replacement. Barwick was asked if the bridge needs to be replaced. “Absolutely,” he said.