The Johnsburg Town Board, March 2012
Workforce reductions in the town of Johnsburg Building and Parks Department coupled with tight budgets and limited resources in recent years worked to create a backlog of projects, Town Councilman Peter Olesheski told fellow board members Thursday, March 22.
The situation isn’t a crisis yet, Olesheski said, but if left unattended, it could become one.
Olesheski said he and Councilman Arnold Stevens met with Matt Olden, the town’s lone full-time staff member in the Building and Parks Department, and discussed a list of projects and needed repairs compiled by Don Filkens in late 2011.
Olesheski said he and Olden updated the list during a recent tour of the town’s buildings and parks. It contains more than 50 items, both major and minor. Examples include addressing drainage issues at Tannery Pond, replacing a broken garage door at the town garage, replacing the roof at Town Hall, adding panic hardware to doors at the Senior Meal Site, replacing windows at the Boy Scout Hall, repairing or replacing broken picnic tables at Ski Bowl Pavilion, and painting doors and handrails at Wevertown Hall.
The purpose of the meeting, Olesheski said, was to determine which items Olden and the other crew member who works three days a week could accomplish themselves and which should be farmed out to a contractor.
Thursday’s Town Board discussion produced varying opinions as to how the town should proceed in trying to get a handle on the list and start making progress.
Olesheski said he believed that if Olden and crew could be given some priorities they could accomplish quite a bit in-house. Still, Olesheski said, some of the jobs were beyond the scope of the in-house staff’s expertise and would need to be contracted out. He cited the re-roofing of the Town Hall and Scout Hall as examples.
“We need to prioritize,” Olesheski said, “then address the most critical needs.”
But Councilman Arnold Stevens said the town should consider issuing a “request for proposals” and determine what it would cost to have a contractor tackle the entire list.
“It’s not just the buildings and cemeteries,” Stevens said. “It’s his everyday duties, too. It has become more and more apparent that if we took away all the building repairs and all the cemetery work, that Matt would still have more work than he can accomplish with his crew.”
Olesheski countered that perhaps the town should add some additional manpower to the department.
“In my mind, there’s got to be an addition of staff to that department,” he said. “There’s no way around it.”
Stevens questioned whether more manpower would solve the problem.
“It seems to me in 20 years if a door could be painted it would have been painted,” he said.
Supervisor Ron Vanselow said that the crew starts out most days with plans to tackle items on the list, but often more urgent things pull them away from those goals. He cited a recent day when a lock at Tannery Pond broke and needed to be repaired and another day when the door at the library had to be replaced so as to be able to secure the building.
“Stuff comes up,” Vanselow said.
Stevens wondered if the transfer station could be open one less day and the attendant could be reassigned to work on the project list. He suggested perhaps closing it Wednesday or Thursday.
Olesheski wondered if one additional day of manpower would have an impact.
“Matt said anything would help but that doesn’t go far to solve the big issue,” Olesheski said.
Councilman Gene Arsenault agreed that the Building and Parks Department has been under-served for years and that the problem wouldn’t be fixed overnight.
“It’s a process,” he said. “This committee is trying to wrap its arms around it.”
The difficulty in finding a solution is that resources remain scarce.
“You still have to come up with a way to pay for it,” Vanselow said. “... I’m confident we can make a lot of progress. But people need to understand we have financial constraints.”
Thursday’s discussion provided limited consensus but served as a prelude to a planned discussion at the April 3 Town Board meeting at which Vanselow intends to discuss how the town should handle care and maintenance of the Town’s cemeteries, which also come under the purview of the Department of Buildings and Parks.
The Town Board next meets at Wevertown Hall at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3.