HANSON — The town has reached amicable agreements to part ways with regional contracts for IT and animal control services, but Selectmen are divided on when and how to reappoint a new Recreation Commission.
The latter issue cropped up as Town Administrator Michael McCue reported to the board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Nov. 29 that the town has received eight applications for the Recreation Director job posting, which closes Friday, Dec. 2.
“We have some fairly strong candidates for that position,” McCue said, asking the board for guidance on how best to proceed. “I don’t think we will have a full [Recreation Commission] reconstituted within the next couple of weeks or so … unless the board directs me otherwise, I would like to move forward in bringing these people in for interviewing them.”
McCue said he would like to have a director in place by Jan. 1, 2017.
Selectman Bruce Young then advocated for meeting as soon as possible to reconstitute the Recreation Commission as the board has received seven applications from people interested in serving on the commission.
“The ideal situation would be if we could meet briefly next week to appoint the Recreation Commission, then they could organize and assign a person to sit with [McCue] and go through the process,” Young said. He noted that McCue and that Recreation representative would then conduct the interviews and recommend a couple of candidates to submit to the fully reconstituted Recreation Commission to appoint, as outlined in the Town Administrator Act.
The board voted 5-0 to appoint Selectman Bill Scott to sit in on interviews with McCue in order to prevent a hiring delay that could cause some applicants to withdraw.
Selectmen Kenny Mitchell and Chairman James McGahan advocated that the investigation process completed before sppointing a new commission so the town can move forward.
“The problem I have with it is we’re probably going to expect some input [from the town’s attorney] because we also have a deadline on Nov. 30,” McGahan said of a previous decision to give Recreation Commission members named in Labor Counsel Leo Peloquin’s report time to rebut its findings.
“I don’t want to make any decisions on any Recreation Commission members until after this Camp Kiwanee [investigation] is completely done and over so we can move forward,” Mitchell said. “I want to start fresh — a nice, clean slate.”
Young asked how Mitchell and McGahan thought the investigation could affect a new Recreation Commission.
“You’re talking about appointing a new Recreation Commission,” Young said. “You might end up with two members from the last board, but those members probably weren’t even involved in that whole scenario. … I don’t see that any of the prior people who resigned put applications in.”
“A statement was made when they resigned,” McGahan said. “I’m not going to hurry up and get somebody in just so they can get that position, which is probably just going to sit there and allow Mike to just do the interview.”
Young argued that five or six new people have applied and should have a chance to go through the selection process in order to get the Recreation Commission back to work, noting the Town Administrator act does not give that post appointing authority. McGahan countered that Selectmen had voted to place McCue as the Camp Kiwanee administrator until a new director is hired.
“I don’t have any problem with him being the interim head of the Recreation Department, and I don’t have a problem with him even being a personnel manager and doing the interviews,” Young said. “I do have a problem with circumventing the Town Administrator Act.”
McGahan said he does not believe that is being done.
The contracts Selectmen voted to withdraw from involve an IT services contract with Whitman-Hanson Regional School District and the regional animal control agreement with Whitman and Abington.
McCue said that, in both cases, Hanson’s withdrawal was being done under amicable circumstances. The IT contract, which Selectmen had approved and authorized McCue to sign an amended contract with the school district through the end of the fiscal year. The town will only pay the $37,500 for a nine-month contract with an option for coverage over a full year.
“It’s unfortunate,” McCue said. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. … This gives an awful lot of lead time to figure out what makes sense both in the short term and long term for the town of Hanson.”
McCue said a meeting with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner and members of the district’s IT staff over the current agreement revealed the schools’ in-house demand on that staff has greatly increased, making it difficult to continue serving Hanson’s IT needs as well.
Whitman had gone its own way on IT services four or five years ago, hiring it’s own IT director Josh MacNeil.
“If they’re in a position that they feel they can’t really support us to the degree that I think we were hoping for, it makes sense — and both sides were in agreement on this — that the town of Hanson [should] move in its own direction on this,” McCue said. “They were very generous to let us out of the contract.”
He said either a consultant or a full-time IT person could be budgeted for and he has begun meeting with consultants to gauge the cost involved.
In supporting McCue’s advice that the town should also back away from the regional animal control agreement, Selectmen also voted to appoint Ron Clark as interim animal control officer for Hanson. A permanent position would be posted in the spring.
“I’m certainly a proponent of regional agreements when they make sense,” McCue said. “Unfortunately, this is another instance we’ve run into where the workload has basically surpassed the ability of the staff of the agreement.”
McCue had met several weeks ago with Whitman Town Administrator Frank Lynam and Abington Town Manager Richard Lafond, at which time the three concluded that either they go in different directions or obtain more funding to hire additional staff. McCue determined Hanson would be better off going solo and the other towns agreed to that.