By Beth David, Editor
Fairhaven’s Town Administrator search hit another snag when all but one candidate dropped out, according to a letter from The Collins Group, which is conducting the search. At its meeting on 11/22/21, the Select Board voted to offer former Town Administrator Mark Rees a contract for part time consulting work to work on projects that Wendy Graves, the Acting Town Administrator, who is also the town Finance Director/ Treasurer/Collector, simply does not have time to do.
SB chairperson Bob Espindola said he had spoken to Ms. Graves who agreed that she could use the help. The two made a list of things that are likely to fall to the wayside now that the TA search will start over again at the busiest time of the year, with budgets and a special town meeting coming up.
The list includes time-consuming projects, such as how to spend ARPA funds (American Rescue Plan Act); work on the public safety facility; Union Wharf issues; broadband work, and much more. Some projects require an RFP, or more.
Mr. Espindola said that Mr. Rees was the one person who could come in and hit the ground running.”
Otherwise, Ms. Graves would have to spend a lot of time trying to get the person up to speed.
Mr. Espindola said he would like to ask Mr. Rees to facilitate the goals and objectives meetings that the board started having when he was hired. They have not had any for a couple of years.
The position will be strictly contractual, he will not work on any day-to-day functions of the TA, and would mostly work from home.
Ms. Graves and Mr. Espindola met with Mr. Rees on Monday and he was “agreeable,” said Mr. Espindola.
Ms. Graves said she spoke with Mr. Rees and “it was very clear that he would be doing specific projects only, not interfering with the day-to-day.”
Mr. Rees will have a contract, with part time hours specified. Mr. Espindola said the money is in the budget because they had planned on a TA salary.
“I think it’s an opportunity to give you some relief, especially as we go into the holiday season,” said SB member Stasia Powers to Ms. Graves, adding that there is a lot to do and it will be a while before a TA is hired.
“I appreciate that you realize I ama little overwhelmed just knowing it’s going to gon a few months,” said Ms. Graves, adding that December is the busiest month.
“I’m on board,” said SB member Keith Silvia.
The board voted unanimously to offer a contract to Mr. Rees.
Mr. Espindola also expressed a strong desire to hold a goals and objectives meeting. The resulting document will be very helpful to the new TA, he said.
The move was prompted by a letter from Mary Flanders Alcardi of the Collins Group stating that all but one of the candidates had withdrawn.
Ms. Alcardi said she will repost the position with a short deadline indicating the search has been extended. She hopes to hold interviews in December or early January.
“I know this is disappointing. Trust me. I do,” wrote Ms. Alcardi. “I am disappointed. It has been a while since the deadline and many contracts will be up in just over 6 months, so we will be sure to get a few more candidates.”
Mr. Espindola said the screening committee was willing to continue its work.
“It’s so disappointing,” said Ms. Powers. “But it’s the nature of the game.”
She noted that it is the way hiring is going “these days.”
Mr. Espindola noted that the consultant assured him it was nothing about the town turning people away. He said they had quite a few candidates initially. He noted that in “very part of our society” it is hard to find people.
“This is no different,” he said.
The board also approved the Homecoming Day Fair for June 25, 2022. No paperwork for permits, or other requests for police, public works, etc. accompanied the request. Mr. Epindola said the board should work to “formalize” the request since the fair requires the use of town hall and the closing of the streets. Requests to use the services of the public works department, police and EMA should be included.
In a related matter, Frank Fostin, president of Fairhaven Improvement Association, wrote that the cables used to hold up the Homecoming banner need to be replaced. The FIA would like to buy a new light-weight mesh banner and a new cable system, but they wanted a reassurance that the banner would be allowed to hang on town hall in the future.
Board members agreed they could not speak for future boards. After some discussion, they voted a “standing order” to allow the banner to hang. It would require a proactive vote by another board to change it.
During the discussion, there was some confusion about whether or not the town’s controversial flag policy had been rescinded. Mr. Espindola asked that staff members research the situation to find out.
The board also informed the public that applications are now available for the apartments being built at the former Oxford School property (see page 5 for details).
In other business, the board appointed Jenna Benoit to the Commission on Disabilities. The town has several volunteer vacancies on boards and committees. Visit https:// www.fairhaven-ma.gov/volunteer-opportunities for a list.
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