Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Unasked Question

A key point was ignored in the midst of all the posturing about hiring an Acting Town Manager at Monday night’s meeting of the Southbridge Town Council.

The question that not one councilor saw fit to ask was, “If we can get by for up to six months with a Town Manager serving 20 hours per week at $1,000 per week, why do we need a full timer at more than twice that amount?” 

Now, there is no reason that no one was aware of this question. I raised it in an earlier article, Featherbedding And Ignorance At Southbridge Town Hall. Some of the members of the council read this blog as attested to the fact that the Meeting of the Whole ended up being televised after another article titled, Why Is This Off-Camera?

Certainly the question is especially valid over the course of the upcoming months. During the remaining hours of the week when the Acting Town Manager is absent, that mantle will be assumed by the Finance Director. This is during what must doubtless be her busiest time of the year.

Over the next five months she will be at the center of the budgeting process which culminates in the vote on the budget in May. (A reminder to councilors and citizens alike – that is when your tax rate is really set!)

Despite that fact, the outgoing Town Manager negotiated a contract that inherently assumed that someone serving 20 hours per week was totally adequate. If he implicitly testified to that effect, why wouldn’t any councilor ask him why he felt that this was sufficient? And, if it is sufficient, then it should be good enough for the remaining six months of the year this year and every year.

Maybe because that’s all we really need. Or, maybe it’s because the town hall is so egregiously overstaffed that there is enough redundancy that it can function on that basis. Or maybe, just maybe, both are true.

Whatever the case, these are things to keep in mind in the course of two imminent events. The first is when the Town Manager Search Committee comes forward with its recommendations. Do we really need somebody full time for big bucks? The second is when the budget is debated and voted upon. Just how much fat are we really paying for? Are councilors really doing their jobs for the taxpayers, or are they just making a belated stocking-filling run servicing town employees for Santa?

For those who haven’t had the opportunity to see the way-off Broadway production of "Bats" as performed by the Solons of Southbridge which documents the handling of the contract issue regarding an Acting Town Manager, it is provided below in three acts.

The first act, subtitled “The Car Keys To The Kingdom”, covers the Council of the Whole Meeting which discussed the proposed contract.

The second act, subtitled, “Baby You Can’t Drive My Car”, shows the actual vote on the contract.

The final third act, subtitled, “Maybe Baby”, shows the move to reconsider the vote taken in act two.

 Act I - The Car Keys to the Kingdom

Act II - Baby You Can't Drive My Car

Act III - Maybe Baby

1 comment:

  1. Seems to me if a interim manager can come in and "manage" part time, why go through the expense of a full time manager? And how do the rest of the council feel since there input was omitted from the T and G article? I know how Denise feels.............


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