STONEHAM - Pitching an initiative he successfully implemented during his previous role as Swamspcott's CEO, Town Administrator Thomas Younger proposed a potential merger of the municipal and school system's facilities departments into a single entity.
During a recent Board of Selectmen's meeting, Younger advised the town officials that he plans on holding a handful of talks over the next few months with Schools Superintendent John Macero about the consolidation.
The brief conversation, held towards the tail-end of the Town Hall gathering, was prompted by news of the pending retirement of DPW Deputy Director Larry Brophy, who announced he will be retiring in Jan. of 2019.
According to Younger, the consolidation will not be as simple as reallocating funding from a single salary to create a new department head title, but he does hope to seriously consider a combination of both the town and school facilities oversight functions.
Currently, Stoneham's Public Works Department is charged with the basic maintenance of municipal buildings like Town Hall, the Stoneham Arena, the Stoneham Senior Center, the Police and Fire Department headquarters, and the Whip Hill mansion, while the school department has a separate maintenance department for the district's five educational facities.
"I think it's something that wee can work with," said Younger of the initiative. "We're beginning the preliminary process and it won't happen this year, but maybe at next year's Town Meeting, [we could have a proposal ready] for a possible consolidation."
Since accepting his current job in Town Hall's corner office back in October of 2016, Younger has proselytized the importance of maintaining Stoneham's various assets, especially as the community looks towards a future Stoneham High School renovation or rebuilding project.
Those capital priorities are in line with the views of both the Finance & Advisory Board and most selectmen, who have argued the town, in ignoring its maintenance obligations, ends up paying a steep pricer for that neglect as facilities fall into more serious disrepair.
According to Younger, who in 2016 oversaw the final steps of similar merger in Swampscott, he broached the topic with the superintendent even before Brophy revealed his retirement plans, as Macero, formerly the superintendent of Winthrop, also has experience with such an arrangement at his last place of employment.
"I've done it in two communities," said Younger. "It wont' happen overnight. It's like a lego building block program. You accept the statute and then build off of it. After the elections, let's begin those discussions, so everyone knows what needs to be done."
Reached this week, DPW Superintendent Robert Grover, who has not been privy to the discussion about the merger, agreed the general concept made a lot of sense, given the number of assets the town has to manage.
However, Grover believes staffing levels are currently insufficient to handle that increased workload, as his department already finds itself overtaxed by its existing obligations.
"I think with the amount of infrastructure this town has, it's a great idea, if we had someone dedicated to doing it [right]. As it is right now, [I don't think we could handle the extra work]," said the DPW director.
During the recent gathering, Younger did seem to agree with that overall assessment, as he pointed out that Brophy routinely climbed into plow trucks during the winter season to ensure there was sufficient manpower to clear snow from local roadways.