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Quincy facilities department consolidations could mean bigger changes

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  April 17, 2012 04:27 PM

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The consolidation of facilities management departments for Quincy and the city's schools may entail the addition of new positions as moving the merged departments to a new location.

According to Mayor Thomas Koch, who met with School Committee members on April 11 to discuss the merger, the move is designed to create efficiencies in the immediate future, which also would save the city money in the long run.

“If we can consolidate resources, I think it will go a long way,” Koch said in a phone interview. “We’re doing more work, so that we don’t have to go out to bond everything.

"If we better maintain things over time, we spend less on those capital projects than when things are let go. That will enable us to get on a path to keep up things better…rather than just responding [to needs].”

Part of doing upkeep rather than responding to breakdowns may include the addition of a plasterer/painter, which most likely will be included in the budget for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1. More positions could be added on, such as electricians and plumbers.

Koch also hopes to consolidate the new department in one location.

“I’m working on a plan that will house them out of the school in a separate facility. Not ready to say. It would not be part of Codington renovation. I’d be looking to get a new location. We’ve got it down to a couple of possibilities,” Koch said.

Part of the problem is that currently the needs of the departments are spread throughout the city, with some offices located at Sterling Middle School, others at Saville Avenue, and buses stored at the Public Works yard.

“When I’m finished … we’ll get everything under one roof. It will make everything a lot smoother. And if you’re not running around to different places, you don’t lose time. I think this will resolve some of that,” Koch said.

Under the new plan, approximately 16 people – including the director of maintenance and his secretary and several tradesmen, would be taken out of the school budget and put into the Public Buildings Department budget.

Started when Koch took office in late 2008, the Public Buildings Department is comprised of Director Gary Cunniff, Director of City Maintenance Walter MacDonald, and several city custodians.

A carpenter from the DPW and, from time to time, laborers from the DPW who have previously assisted in city jobs will join them in the consolidated department.

“How we’ll resolve it going forward, I haven’t figured out yet,” Koch said. “It won’t all happen in one budget season. It may take two or three budget cycles to get to the point where we have the trades people we need.”

Despite the changes, Koch told school labor union members Wednesday that their contracts would be honored.

“Not a lot would be different in a sense for them. They would be working within the fire houses, libraries, at City Hall and other city buildings. They would have to become accustomed to those buildings, but the mayor strongly suggested that there wouldn’t be a tremendous amount of change within contractual obligation,” said Superintendent Richard DeCristofaro.

And although this type of resolution was not passed in 2004 with Mayor William Phelan or in 2008 when proposed by Mayor Koch, “I think this committee may be more open to the idea of a merger with the idea that the schools,” DeCristofaro said. “Classrooms, students, and teachers will still be a significant priority within Public Schools Department.”

Neither Vice School Committee Chair Barbara Isola or Facilities Subcommittee chair David McCarthy could be reached for comment. However, DeCristofaro sees the merger as a good idea.

“I think it may be not great short term, but long term the mayor is looking at promoting that building team, and building on that in order to meet growing needs as our buildings get a bit older,” he said.

Still others are not convinced.

According to School Committee member Anne Mahoney, there would be an increase in spending, not savings, somce the city plans to create new positions, and might aquire a new building to house everybody in.

“There’s no showing of how it will save money, and if you push further, there is no Department [on the city side currently]. There’s the creation of a department happening…and promises that it will create efficiencies,” Mahoney said. “But it’s a part of a bigger picture. There is a building the city is going to acquire behind the senior center… I think there’s a bigger…questions to be asked.”

The Facilities Subcommittee will meet again on April 26 to discuss the ordinance. From there it will require a full School Committee vote and then approval by the City Council.

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