Freeport may consolidate jobs of town engineer, public works director

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FREEPORT — The town is considering consolidating the duties of the town engineer and public works director.

The Town Council on Tuesday scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 6 to discuss amendments to the Administrative Code that would give the engineer duties now held by the director of public works.

Town Manager Dale Olmstead said that after hearing many department heads say during budget deliberations that they needed additional staff, the council decided to evaluate that need on a department-by-department basis.

When Public Works Director Jim Plummer announced he would retire in October, Olmstead said, staff began a review of Public Works Department. 

“We looked at the current operation, how communities around us are structured and held meetings with employees to get their input,” he said. “We received invaluable feedback from them.”

Town Engineer Albert Presgraves said he has been involved in the discussions, and said he already handles some of the duties within the Public Works Department.

If the town engineer takes over some of the administrative duties of the Public Works Director, Olmstead said, a superintendent could manage the day-to-day operation of the department.

Although the reallocation of duties will result in cost savings, Olmstead said that was not the goal. He also said he does not have an estimate of how much could be saved at this time.

“The goal is to create efficiencies,” he said. “We are looking to find out if there is a way to create efficiencies internally before we need to add more people.”

Under the proposal, the town engineer would be the head of public works and be appointed by the town manager. He or she would supervise and direct public works activities and employees, and plan, coordinate and evaluate public works programs and activities.

The engineer/director would develop and administer the annual budget, program estimates and Capitol Improvement Plan under the direction of the town manager, and oversee the solid waste and recycling program.

However, the engineer/director would no longer be responsible for maintaining the cemeteries and municipal parks or for issuing required street or highway opening permits. The public works superintendent would be in charge of those duties.

The public hearing on the changes is set for Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 6:30 p.m. 

In other business, the council scheduled a public hearing on proposed changes to the student shellfish licenses on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Chad Coffin of the Maine Clammer’s Association said a pilot program would allow three students, one non-resident and two residents, to earn money by harvesting clams. Coffin said he hopes to increase the number to five soon.

Resident Marie Gunning told the council there will be a public meeting of the Freeport Resident’s Committee on Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss issues of governance in town. Led by Gunning, the meeting is an opportunity for the public to better understand how the town handles taxes, she said.

The meeting will be in the large conference room at the Freeport Community Library.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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