Future of DPW, Engineering Leadership Unsure

September 11, 2015


by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

In a meeting lasting less than 15 minutes, Salem Selectmen authorized Town Manager Keith Hickey to combine both the engineering and public works departments and research the possibility of reorganization of the collections department.

The first proposal by Hickey was to combine the engineering department with the department of public works, with all employees answering to the public works director.

“I am proposing for the board’s consideration including the engineering department under the public works department,” Hickey said.  “Moving them under the public works department and under the supervision of the public works director.”

The move would eliminate one administrative position, but Hickey noted there would not be a decrease in staffing, adding the town could incur a minor cost to complete the reorganization.

Hickey felt the town could see a financial savings as future projects are implemented.

“This is strictly operational in my mind,” he said.  “The proposal itself would not change the number of staff members.”

Selectman Stephen Campbell opposed the reorganization, feeling the combination would not be done correctly.

“I have no confidence that this reorganization will work or be done fairly,” Campbell said, adding at least one other department needed to be reviewed as well.

The proposal passed 3-1 with Campbell in opposition.  Selectman Pat Hargreaves did not attend the meeting.  Hickey said he was unsure who would lead the department

But another proposal comes on the heels of an increased work load by the collections department after the town became a municipal agent with the Department of Motor Vehicles moving out of the building.

Hickey questioned whether the board would support a review of responsibilities of collection employees, and look into combining the tax collector and town clerk positions.

“We’ve been challenged with the additional work load that comes with being a municipal agent,” Hickey said, acknowledging he was unaware if there would be a cost savings.

The board moved 4-0 to direct the town manager to look into the possibilities.  He will deliver his findings to the board by Oct. 5.