2018-07-20 / Community

Department reports continue at town hall

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Town officials in Kennebunk continued their semi-annual audience with department heads, taking in updates at the July 10 meeting from Public Works Operations Manager Bryan Laverriere, Human Resources Director Jeri Sheldon and Community Development Director Chris Osterrieder.

Selectmen requested the regular reports three years ago, citing concern that they were not always as in the loop as most town residents might presume.

Since then, department heads have appeared before the board twice each year to report on “significant accomplishments” within their jurisdictions over the past six months, and to identify “select goals and objectives” on the front burner for completion within the next few months.

On June 12, the board heard from Karen Winton, who serves in the duel role of general assistance director and social media coordinator, and from Tasha Pinkham, the town’s director of parks and recreation. June 26 brought updates from Town Assessor Daniel Robinson, Police Chief Robert MacKenzie, Town Clerk Merton Brown, and Finance Director Joel Downs, who also is in charge of tax collection and information technologies. Those reports were covered in the July 6 issue of the Post.

Public works

Laverriere, who is managing public works following the June 15 resignation of Eric Labelle, admitted his department is currently understaffed, due to issues including staff turnover, retirements, medical leave and military deployments. However, he was not ready to issue a call for augmented staffing.

“I’m not going to come and ask for something I don’t know that I need until I know for sure that I do,” he said. “Until I’m fully staffed and operating at full capacity, I can’t speak to whether I have enough (workers) or not, currently.”

Pending projects, he said, include planting flower beds at the I-95 on-ramps and maintaining the Fletcher Street traffic roundabout, which will change from grass to “maintenance free” raised flower beds.

All irrigation systems are “up and running” following recent repair work, Laverriere said, including one at Rotary Park that “they didn’t even know they had until this year.”

“A lot’s been lost in the last few years as far as some of that information, but we know it’s there now. It’s up and running and we’re moving forward with it,” Laverriere said, citing frequent turnover in the top public works job over the past decade for the park irrigation system falling out of memory.

Laverriere said he is also trying to build a database of all facilities, including info on the HVAC systems on all town buildings.

A recent sewer backup at the police department was “an ugly one” that diverted significant man hours from road projects, but repairs have been completed, Laverriere said.

Annual road striping was behind schedule, Laverriere said, because of a lack of availability of suitable paint.

Human resources

According to Sheldon, Kennebunk has 72 regular full-time employees and eight regular part-timers. It also employs 41 per diem employees in the rescue department and 40 pay-per-call members of the fire department’s volunteer call company. The firefighting force includes 23 of the rescue per diems who live in town and respond to fire calls when not on EMT duty.

Among human resource initiatives for the coming year, Sheldon said, her department will implement an attendance-on-demand software system designed to “automate employee time and labor tracking and synchronizes that with payroll,” develop an internal computer intranet “as an effective tool to enhance employee engagement,” refine the open enrollment process for health insurance, finalize a draft of revisions to the town’s employee handbook and “identify good and creative ways to promote harmony in the workplace and retain the good employees we have.”

Community development

Osterrieder said the appeal period is opening soon for new FEMA flood zone maps.

Information on how residents can file objections to the placement of their property in or out of flood zones will be posted to the town website as soon as it becomes available, he said.

The planning department also is working to develop design guidelines for Lower Village construction and renovation projects.

Osterrieder said the town recently received a $10,000 Project Canopy matching grant, which will be used to plant new trees along Parsons Beach Road.

Osterrieder said he anticipates Maine Department of Transportation grant funding for 2020 work to Ross Road and Fletcher Street.

“We will probably have to do some remedial work out there to limp things along until then, but the fact that they are going to five us 50 cents on the dollar is a good thing for us,” he said.

Work upcoming this summer includes Summer Street, the new train station and Emmons Road bridge, as well as Sea Road, Dane Street and Route 1 north.

Osterrieder also said that, like Laverriere, he is working to create a database for asset management, as well as management of road rights-of-way, while also working with Fire Chief Jeff Rowe to develop construction standards for private roads in town.

“I say that tiptoeing as I don’t really have a timeline for doing that, because it’s a really sensitive topic,” he said, referencing some aborted rule-making undertaken in the early 2000s.

“I can tell you the town of Arundel recently called and asked about our standards,” Osterrieder said. “It’s kind of an interesting thing when a neighboring town asks about standards you don’t really have. So, we may want to think about whether we are really serving the public on that front.”

During Laverriere’s presentation, during which he mentioned ongoing repair work along Beach Avenue, Osterrieder fielded questions about the new handicapped access ramp to Middle Beach, which is deemed by many to be too steep, while also not having a so-called “safe landing zone” at the bottom.

The town is caught in a “criss-cross area” between no requirement to have handicapped access to the beach under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but needing to provide access Architectural Barrier Act, which does, due to the application of federal funds at the beach.

“Bottom line is, for us to have a (truly) accessible surface, we’d have to look at modifying the wall and putting in something similar to a boat launch to make an accessible route to the beach, and then extending some kind of walkway to get to the water’s surface,” he said.

Town Manager Mike Pardue said the new ramp was chosen specifically because it is removable.

“What we found was that public services was constantly having to rebuild the wooden ramp taking up a lot of cost of staff time, as well as materials,” he said. “With this one, as we can predict higher than-usual tides coming in, we can remove that, making, in the long run, a lot of savings for the taxpayer.”

The town has a new wheeled beach chair to aid in handicapped access.

The chair can be obtained by placing a reservation with the rec department, which will have public works crew deliver it to users on site, Laverriere said.

Selectmen will not meet again in July.

The final department reports, from Fire Chief Jeff Rowe and EMS Chief John Brady, are expected to be delivered at the board’s Aug. 14 meeting.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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