The second quarter of my first year in office started with a bang. We spent a good portion of the last month working through the issue of health insurance cost control.
At our last Council meeting we voted to pass the agenda item # 2012-065. This order allows the town to engage in an expedited negotiation process to change our employees’ health insurance benefit plan design. It is allowed under a new law (MGL C.32B §§ 21-23). I voted for the passage of this measure so that both our employees and the taxpayers can immediately realize a savings through a reduction in health insurance premiums for fiscal year 2013
The Town’s finance director documented there are $1.6 million in estimated savings as a result of the changes to the plan. Since the employees pay half of the premiums, $800,000 of the savings will be immediately flowed to their paychecks via lower premiums. Under the law the employees are also guaranteed an additional $400,000 from the town’s first year savings. This is a one-time appropriation for use during FY 13 to help mitigate the impact of the design changes.
Currently the Town of Barnstable offers a 50/50 sharing of actual plan costs offered through the Cape Cod Municipal health group. There were some who thought that the Town Council could get involved in the negotiations. We cannot do that. It is our hope that the FY 13 expedited negotiations will take place favorably. Then, early in the new fiscal year we hope the bargaining groups immediately begin to negotiate again in earnest for FY 2014 and beyond.
At the same Town Council meeting the town manager position was filled on an interim basis for a final 90 days. It was the correct vote given the sub-committee’s recommendation to commence the process to fill the vacant town manager position by initially using an in-house search.
Our human resources professionals told us that they could conduct a timely search in-house and we could complete it in less than 90 days. This process would allow us the time to make a town manager appointment at the mid-June charter requirement. In addition, it allows us as employers to be courteous to the management employees who have suffered at a minimum, a lowering of moral for more than a year.
Most importantly the in-house search would have allowed us the opportunity to professionally consider the gentleman who has managed the town without an assistant for the last six months. This man has a unique and dignified history with this community. He deserves some professional consideration. It should be based upon respect and not politics. I believe that an in-house process would have allowed us a dignified approach to better understand our employee’s plans and visions and to contrast his thoughts against the council’s plans and visions.
Based on the advice of the previous councilor from Precinct 11 and others, it was my hope that we could contract with a current management employee for a reasonable period of time. If the current acting town manager wanted to help us through the short term, we could contract with him. If it was deemed better to have him move into the long term manager process, we could appoint another manager for the short term. Either way, with the June appointment deadline no longer a distraction, we could move forward with a much more thoughtful and strategic search for a permanent town manager.
The final advantage to starting with an in-house search was a more robust pool of candidates. If we can eliminate an inside candidate via the internal search before going out to the greater market, we can strengthen the pool of candidates. Many quality candidates will not risk making an application if they think there is an inside candidate.
In addition, our town has recently suffered a loss of reputation within the professional managers’ world. The story of the gang of six and what happened to most of them will live on in the internet for some time. That period of conflict will best be laid to rest through time and better behavior from everyone. Clearly as prospective employers looking to attract a pool of the best managers we can, we need to produce evidence of a stable and always improving legislative body. We also need our public to project the image of a caring community. I’m not so sure we all sent that message recently.
Given our vote to not go the route sought by the sub-committee, we still have a June date looming that needs some attention sooner than later. Meanwhile we are going forward to engage a consultant to help us seek a new town manager on a broad basis. We will likely need to vote some funds in order to do that. Once we complete the appropriation, we have a public procurement process that is required to hire this contractor. With that done, we will select and contract with the consultant that best meets our needs.
Our new consultant will then start to work with us. First they will help us determine the specific management strengths and character traits that we are looking for when we go to into the market seeking the town’s next CEO. Once there is clarity in our objective, the public search will commence. The collection and evaluation of the prospects is generally provided by the contractor. Under the state’s law there is a strict level of confidence maintained until the final names are released. The process of candidate evaluation and determination of finalists still needs to be defined. Various firms use various techniques. So the procurement process will be helpful on that front.
Would you like to spice up an otherwise dull March evening on Thursday, March 22nd from 4-7 pm to benefit West Barnstable’s Whelden Memorial Library? Come join us at the Sip Around the World wine tasting extravaganza sponsored by Seven G’s Liquors at the Hyannis Golf Club on Route 132. Come sample many fine wines paired with tasty hors d’ouvres. If you like wine you can buy a raffle ticket for a fabulous raffle of over 50 bottles of wine. If you want to donate a bottle of your favorite wine for the wine raffle, please drop it off at the library. The Whelden Memorial Library’s phone number is 508-362-2262. Tickets are $20 per person and are available at the library or at the 7 G’s Liquor Store.
The last weekend of this month offers you with an opportunity for some fine West Barnstable spaghetti . On Saturday evening March 31 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM you can enjoy a spaghetti supper and raffle at the West Barnstable Fire Station. You can have a fine meal and help us kick start the annual Village Day Festival at the same time. There will be parking and shuttle services at the West Barnstable Community Building. You can also get take out service if you would rather eat at home.
As always I am available for personal constituent service meetings every first Tuesday of the month from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the West Barnstable Community Building. The West Barnstable Civic Association Board of Directors meets at 7:00 PM on the same night. I will also be attending those WBCA meetings each month. Please note that I will be available on next Tuesday, March 15 due to the Presidential elections earlier this week. The WBCA board meeting is that night also. See you there.