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Ad Hoc Committee Makes Recommendations for Centralizing Facilities Maintenance

Members of an ad hoc facilities maintenance committee addressed the Board of Selectmen last night.

Two members of the ad hoc Facilities Maintenance Committee to centralize maintenance of town and school buildings made recommendations to the Board of Selectmen last night as the committee finalizes its arguments toward a Town Meeting vote on a change from the current system.

Tom Goematt, chair of the committee, said the primary change under the new proposal would be that the town would absorb the responsibilities of maintaining all town and school buildings, as opposed to the current system under which the town is responsible for town buildings and the school administration is responsible for delegating maintenance of school properties. The two departments as they currently stand, would be combined, according to Goematt.

Further changes would involve a streamlined management structure – top managers responsible for maintenance would report directly to Executive Director of General Government Hans Larsen – and a budget set aside exclusively for facilities maintenance use, and the establishment of a Facilities Maintenance Department (FMD) staffed by full time town employees.

“The building systems, as evidenced by our new high school, are getting increasingly more sophisticated and complex and really need professional care and professional management,” Goematt said.

Goematt added that under the proposed plan, there will be preventative maintenance programs set up to mitigate “significantly higher” long term costs.

“There’s a feeling that this has not been very well to date,” he said.

The changes, if approved at Town Meeting March 26, would take effect July 1.

Wellesley Department of Public Works and buildings will not immediately fall under the new structure, according to Goematt, because of the complexity of the initial integration. Currently, DPW and MLP building maintenance is handled apart from town and school owned buildings.

As part of the proposal, Goematt said the committee recommends a $1.5 million transfer from free cash to the newly established FMD fund at this year’s town meeting, and a $1 million transfer each following year.

The facilities management director would report to Larsen not a town board, Goematt said.

Board of Selectmen Chair Barbara Searle asked if the changes had to occur this year or if they could be implemented over the course of two years, reminding the committee that a Proposition 2 ½ override will likely be necessary this year.

Ad hoc Facilities Maintenance Committee member Phil Laughlin said now is the best time to act on the proposed changes.

“I understand totally the override situation,” he said. “I am speculating if there were ever an appetite to fund this it would be now…I think it would be really cautious to pull back. Otherwise we won’t be able to meet the key measureable, which is customer satisfaction. That’ll kill it.”

The committee will meet with the School Committee tonight and the Advisory Committee next week.

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