By SHANNON WATKINS
At Tuesday night’s town council meeting, council discussed options for how to merge three town employee positions.
Town Manager John Hawley said, “Council will recall there was a motion at the June 18 meeting for council to work with staff to develop a process to evaluate the merger of the director of economic development, the director of community relations and the senior center director positions.”
Those positions are currently held by, respectively, John White and Barbi Tate. While John White was present, Tate and her supervisor, Parks and Facilities Director Dave Hart, were both absent due to scheduled time off for family functions.
Hawley continued, “We talked with staff about where we need to go with this. We felt like you really needed to see what all the job descriptions entailed.” Hawley indicated that information packets about the subject had been given to council the previous Friday.
He advised council to study the packets and come back with some recommendations. “You’ve got to be careful you don’t cause some impact to an operation that we don’t want to impact, not thinking about it,” he said. “I think we have plenty of time to do this, I think council set itself a time of 120 days. It should be pretty sufficient time to review everything in enough detail to make sure that nothing gets left out that needs to be in there. Or, I don’t know how you do it, but you may need to add something to it.”
In regards to the senior center, Hawley reminded council that as of Jan. 1, part-time employees can only work 29 hours. “So by that fact, unless you hire two part-time Senior Center (employees), you’ve restricted the hours to 29 hours a week, and that breaks down to 5.75 hours a day,” he pointed out. “If you chose to staff it five days.”
Vice Mayor Joseph Goodman said that it was worth deciding if the current job descriptions for these positions are still relevant to the town’s needs. “We’ve sort of changed over the years what the expectations of what the Director of Economic Developments does,” he said. “We need to make sure that part accurately reflects what’s going on, what our goals are, as part of our growth, especially with all these new development plans.” He pointed out that the duties of these positions can vary depending on the municipality.
“I would agree,” said Councilman Greg East. “This is a lot of information, but I’m almost of the opinion that we basically start backwards, looking at where we want to go, looking at where our vision is for the future. You develop a position that is going to help us achieve that goal. Then as a secondary measure, look at the current job descriptions and see how much of that we can encapsulate in that newly developed position, and then we address it that way. And again, this new position, it’s to get us where we want to go, not rehash where we’ve been.” He reiterated the importance of finding out what job duties to keep and which to leave off for the sake of efficiency.
“One area we could start is, rather than thinking of it as a position, what would be the expectations of the modern community development department be?” said Goodman. “Before we start talking about this position, what are our goals for that department?”
East said, “We may start by pulling that job description from other towns in Virginia, and see what they have, what’s working for them, what’s not working for them.” Echoing earlier suggestions of efficiency by Goodman, he mentioned that in some towns the development department employees also handle code enforcement.
Hawley said that inquiries could be made of the Institute of Government.
Goodman said that the town council should look for advice from other communities and that, “we reach out directly to our peers.” He mentioned Herndon as a locality successful in community development and that council should possibly seek out their methods.
Mayor Jeff Worrell mentioned, “There was a discussion about incorporating our main street program into this department.”
“I did talk with Joy Rumley, our former community rep for the downtown project. Now she is with Housing and Community Development and she is doing the Main Street programs,” said Hawley. “It’s possible to have the main street person in the town payroll. Typically it’s in smaller localities. That person is paid by the town. They do not report to the town manager or town council. They report to the board of the Main Street organization…It’s not something they like to see, but if you make a good case to them, they will listen to it.”
East, who earlier had questioned the legality of using a Main Street program rep as an employee of the town, said, “I think I brought that up because as I understand it, in order to be eligible for the grants out there, we have to have someone acting in that capacity….we’re setting ourselves up to be able to pursue any and all grants that are available. I think it would be wise.”
“So what am I hearing from council?” asked Worrell.
Goodman asked if council wanted to bring the topic back up at the next legislative meeting.
Worrell urged them, “We need to keep working on this. The town manager says we have plenty of time but we have a tendency to use that up. You want to put this on the agenda for the legislative meeting or put it on the next work session?”
East asked if it would be difficult to obtain information about what could be done with the positions.
“We should get some of the responses back. We should be able to talk a little bit about it at the next meeting,” said Hawley. “It may be just so-so, but maybe you get that one thing back that triggers ‘Boy, this is exactly where I want to go’, or, ‘This isn’t worth anything. We need to come out on our own with something.’”
After brief further discussion, the mayor put the issue on the next meeting’s agenda and council moved on to other topics.