By Elizabeth F. McNamara
Just two weeks ago, the Town Council voted 4-0 against adding a new position of community resource manager as part of Town Manager Gayle Corrigan’s restructuring of the parks, recreation and human services departments. Monday night, the council voted 4-1 in favor of such a position, then approved hiring Rachel Longo to fill it.
In the intervening two weeks, Corrigan beefed up the CRM job description to include 22 specific items, including serving as a community liaison to provide wraparound services to at-risk populations, work with the EG Housing Authority, create a team to engage with individuals who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless, and develop a marketing plan to increase outside rentals of Swift Community Center, to name four. Find Corrigan’s memo to the council and the job description here:
Direction for the shift appeared to come from President Sue Cienki, who came late to the March 12 meeting, missing the original discussion and vote on the CRM position.
“We want to make sure that we’re not only taking care of our citizens from a tax perspective but making sure that services are provided…. One of our missions is to make sure our disabled citizens are being taken care of, our low income citizens are being taken care of,” she said to begin the discussion. “I have suggested that they hold off putting in a park and rec manager so that we can get a community resource manager in place so that we can get this process moving.”
Corrigan’s restructuring came after the departure earlier this month of Erin McAndrew, who served as senior and human services director for the town. After reviewing the applicants, Corrigan decided no single person could fill that role. She named longtime Parks and Rec Director Cathy Bradley to serve as the director of the new director of community services and parks, with three “managers” serving under her – managers for parks and rec, for senior services and for community resources.
Two applicants for the original senior and human services director job were identified to fill two of the manager positions: Charlotte Markey was hired to serve as the new senior services manager and Rachel Longo was pegged to fill the new community resource manager job. Only, when Corrigan laid out her vision at the meeting March 2, the council questioned adding staff at a time when most of the news out of Town Hall is how difficult the financial picture is for the town.
At that meeting, Councilman Nino Granatiero suggested waiting several weeks to see how everything was going before adding the position.
To that end, on Monday Corrigan stressed that the new position would be “revenue neutral.”
With the community resource manager salary at $45,000, the restructuring would cost around $37,000 more than is currently being spent in these areas. The majority of the money to make up the difference would come from the parks and rec salaries and wages line item, which has been running a surplus for several years, up to around $32,000 this year. Corrigan said she would use $26,000 to fund the CRM position. Other money would come from the nonunion continuing education budget line, which is $10,000 but will drop to $500 in the next year with $9,500 going toward the CRM position. Finally, Corrigan said she was going to take $2,500 out of the unemployment account (currently at $133,000).
Councilman Mark Schwager said he remained unconvinced.
“I was concerned at the last meeting and I’m still concerned,” he said, taking care to add that he has nothing against Rachel Longo, the person up for the position. “I think the consolidation was a good idea but I think the position of community resource manager, those duties could be allocated to other staff.”
For instance, he said, many of the items in the CRM job description are also part of Bradley’s job description and the senior services case worker already does a lot of human services work. The marketing and social media could be done by the chief of staff, he said.
Corrigan and Bradley had stressed the need for the town to do a better job anticipating resident needs, particularly in the areas of housing and social services – to be less “reactive.”
Schwager said he didn’t think the town was reactive in these areas.
“I don’t see this as a major blind spot of the town,” he said.
Addressing Schwager, Granatiero said, “I’m usually making that argument that you’re making but I’ve learned to trust the people on the ground. Cathy’s come back and said, ‘I’ve done the assessment on the ground.’ This is why we have these really good department heads.”
The council voted 4-1 in favor of adding the position, with Schwager voting no. That vote was replicated in approving Longo’s hire. Before the vote, Schwager said he thought there should be a new search for that position rather than just filling it with someone who applied for a completely different job.
Meanwhile, the new senior services manager, Charlotte Markey, started last week. In a brief interview Tuesday, Markey said she was thrilled with her new job.
“There’s so much going on here. It’s amazing. Erin did a wonderful job. I just want to continue with that,” she said. “People have been so friendly. I’m just enjoying it so much. There’s such a variety of support and community involvement!”