Pownal OK's ad for town administrator

POWNAL — The Select Board has approved advertisements to fill a proposed town administrator position in Pownal.

Board members were still discussing, however, whether the position should be full- or part-time and other details before voting last week to post the job by March 1.

Board member Suzanne Caraman said she's working with Vermont League of Cities and Towns Municipal Assistance Center on the wording for the newspaper ads, which also will be posted on various websites, including the town's.

The board approved hiring the VLCT to advise on the ad wording and oversee placement of the notices. Up to $2,500 was approved for advertising costs and up to $500 for assistance in preparing them.

"We have been in need of this position for many, many years now," Caraman said, "and I am very pleased and excited to finally get us to the 'advertising stage.'"

The town of just under 3,500 has discussed an administrator's position on and off for years, but this is the furthest the process has progressed. Exact duties for an administrator, salary level and benefits remain to be decided, but the board also voted to place funding into the fiscal 2019 town budget for an administrator.

In 2016, voters approved a ballot article proposing an administrative post, but the Select Board has been wrestling since then with the estimated costs versus benefits, specific duties for the job and other concerns. Town officials from Vermont communities with an administrator — such as Shaftsbury and Vernon — were consulted, as were staff members with the VLCT.

The board also has voted to form a hiring committee made up of two select board members and three residents, Caraman said. That group will interview candidates and make a recommendation to the board, which will make the final decision, she said.

"I called the town of Vernon, which just went through this process in June 2016," Caraman said. "They received 46 applications, which I thought was fantastic. They hired a woman from Brattleboro, who had worked at a non-profit and had grant writing experience. She is currently writing their town report, and they are very pleased with her."

Before voting to hire the VLCT and place ads, the board discussed whether it would be advisable to begin with a part-time administrator and then upgrade the post to full-time status after a trial period. But it was decided that both the full-time and part-time options should be available going into the candidate interview process.

Board members Ron Bisson and Bruce Martel also asked during the Feb. 1 meeting whether other current town office staff members would be dismissed or demoted if the town hires an administrator.

Chairman Nelson Brownell said during the meeting that other staff positions would remain, in part because "there is plenty of work to go around."

Board member Jason Olansky urged creation of the new post, saying, "We've interviewed other administrators; we know the benefits ... We know what we have does not work."

Pownal is too large and state and other regulations and requirements too complex for a part-time board to manage, Olansky said, adding, "You cannot run this town with a five-person board."

A proposed job description for the administrator's post calls for someone to work with the board to manage daily operations, act as a liaison between the board to other parties or boards; and ensure effective communications with the public, among town departments and with regional, state or federal officials.

Also listed are helping with an on-going assessment of the town's needs; long-term planning, identifying problems and helping to resolve those; representing the town as directed by the board; being knowledgeable of town policies and ordinances; providing an annual town report; supervising maintenance of town facilities; administering personnel and human resources decisions and policies, including screening, hiring, supervision and professional development, evaluations and discipline, and maintaining personnel records.

Qualifications listed include a degree in public administration, political science or business management and/or a minimum of three years experience in an administrative or managerial capacity in municipal government or business, or equivalent experience.

The administrator was proposed with a 30- to 40-hour per week.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. Email: jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com. @BB_therrien on Twitter.


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