First-year admin candid in Q-and-A
The event was sponsored by the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown to give the residents an opportunity to chat informally with the town’s new chief executive.
Paicos has been on the job for about three months. The Town Council hired him to replace Bruce Keiser, who retired in September 2013.
Jerry Scott, president of the association, read some questions. The new administrator began by complimenting the residents for their warm welcome. Paicos introduced himself, saying he has been married 30 years.
He also asked the gathering for advice about his plans to lay off Justin Jobin, the GIS coordinator. Sounding a theme he has broached at council meetings, Paicos said the town government may not be a business, but nonetheless needs to operate more like one.
“I’ve caught a fair amount of flak over this one,” he said.
According to Paicos, residents have been “polite, but very direct” over their support of Jobin. He argued, however, that hiring a new “central maintenance” supervisor with GIS skills could save the town’s investment in its buildings. Paicos said the value of these assets is $250 million. One-third is in the school buildings, and the rest is town owned. Some are crumbling, he said.
“I don’t make these proposals because I’m Darth Vader,” he said, a statement that was followed by applause. Paicos said a business “would not hesitate for a second” to make a similar change.
With respect to the police staffing, Paicos said voters at the annual budget meeting effectively made a decision several years ago to staff two police officers and a dispatcher around the clock.
No one in the audience could recall voting on the question, but Paicos said the expenditure must have been voted up.
One officer is there as backup to protect his colleague, he allowed. But since the union contract indicates the chief, lieutenant and detective cannot be counted among the two on-duty officers, the decision, in reality, has meant that several times a week, taxpayers are paying three officers to man daytime shifts.
“They work a four and two,” he said, explaining officers are on duty four days and then off for two. The shifts run from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and it wasn’t possible to man them without hiring extra police, he said. He estimated the taxpayers are paying for three officers and a dispatcher during 104 eight-hour shifts annually.
“Is this what you intended?” he asked.
When Paicos looked at the night schedule, he thought there was an issue since little crime occurs overnight. The officers spend the shift either driving around in circles or patrolling Route 138, where local police aren’t needed since state police are on duty.
“They’re driving around in circles. There’s an obvious disconnect there,” he said.
As an alternative, he will suggest eliminating one full-time officer and filling in with part-timers. Another option would be to lay off a dispatcher and require the extra officer to take over the function. (The contract negotiations began Feb. 3 in a Town Council executive session.)
One of the major new issues, Paicos said, will be a decision whether or not to finance advanced life support for Jamestown’s medics. Paicos anticipates the expense will add $40 or so annually to average property tax bills. The additional cost cannot be worked into the budget without raising taxes, he said. Part of the reason is the service cannot be staffed entirely by per-diem workers and volunteers. The cost to hire ALScertified medics should be around $200,000, he anticipates.
Paicos also answered questions about the plans for a new facility at the golf course, and discussed the issue about surveillance cameras. To his knowledge, he said, the town operates about seven cameras, not counting those at the schools.
In answer to a question about the conservation easement at the golf course, Paicos said the architect’s plan is legal because all of the buildings are on the correct side of the easement.
Bill Munger of Conanicut Marine asked about plans to return yoga classes to the golf course. Since several local businesses offer similar classes, Munger said the town should not be in competition with local entrepreneurs. Munger asked Paicos to bring the list of community organizations, which is being created by consultants from the UMass Collins Center for Public Management, to the Chamber of Commerce. Members could assess whether private business owners could assist with space requirements, rather than asking the taxpayers to shoulder the burden of building a cultural center.
He also asked about future plans to close one school in light of a declining population. However, a school closure was not likely since some 500 children attend the local district. The rule of thumb, Paicos said, is to house no more than 250 youngsters in a building.