BENNINGTON — Town Manager Stuart Hurd is proposing a public information coordinator position to begin when the new town budget takes effect in July.
Hurd said in a request to the Select Board that the person hired would work to “improve our ability to communicate effectively through the use of our websites and social media, a deficiency the board has noted in the past. I recommend that the board create this position for fiscal year 2020, beginning July 1, 2021.”
The manager added that “it is envisioned that this individual will have IT (information technology) expertise as well as an in-depth knowledge of the use of the web and social media, the ability to write effectively, to work well in a team setting and provide materials to the public through the web, press releases and the like.”
The salary and benefits, Hurd wrote, “will come from funds originally budgeted for operating supplies within the town recreation budget, but over the course of the year, have not been needed. We can, therefore, fund this position without increasing our budget.”
‘NEED TO UPGRADE’
Reached Friday afternoon by email, Select Board Chairwoman Jeannie Jenkins said, “The communications position is a result of a need to overhaul/upgrade our website and have a more consistent ability to share out information and answer questions, including FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests.”
Asked if the proposal came from the ongoing police policy review process, Jenkins said, “It is both separate and consistent with the BPD [Bennington Police Department] policy review discussions and has been under consideration for a number of years. Right now, much of this work falls to the Community Development director and, in my opinion, should continue to be in that office, but with a different person doing this portion of the work. The communications person would work with all town departments.”
According to a job description included in the board’s meeting packet for Monday at 6 p.m., the employee would work with management personnel for all of town government to provide information to the community and coordinate responses to public records requests.
The position also will oversee communications tasks for “multi-departmental and/or multi-town projects and ensure that the town is in compliance with all policies and procedures,” according to the job description.
In addition, the person would guide writing and editing of news releases, advertisements, brochures, newsletters, posters, flyers, social media posts, webpages and electronic communications.”
The employee likewise would create and update the town and police department websites, including regular public notices, according to the description.
Other duties listed include taking photos for publicity purposes as need, coordinating and attending municipal activities and events as deemed necessary by the town manager, and attending meetings for or with the manager as deemed necessary for communications purposes with representatives from other town departments.
A background with proficiency in the use of the Microsoft Office suite is required for candidates, while a bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications, marketing or an IT background is preferred.