SHIRLEY — The dust hasn’t quite settled on the scandal, but town government is recovering, one forward move at a time.
Last month, selectmen moved quickly to appoint Ron Marchetti as transitional town manager after firing Town Administrator Kyle Keady, who is accused of illegally bugging town offices, secretly videotaping women in the bathroom at the town offices and other charges. The case was recently continued in Ayer District Court.
Now, Marchetti is marshaling resources to get his job done by the end of the year.
With his plate piled high, he seems to be digging in with relish.
At their July 12 meeting, the selectmen agreed that one of Marchetti’s priorities would be to find a permanent replacement. But it may be a chief administrative officer versus town administrator, with a job description that calls for different skills and duties. The new title would be a better fit, Marchetti said.
“The town is too small to justify a town manager,” he said.
In his report to the board Monday night, Marchetti noted it was his 13th day on the job and time to lay out in plain language what the “transition” in his title means, such as meeting certain goals in a specified time frame.
Marchetti said he told the selectmen they all must agree on what those goals are. Apparently, they did.
“I have a lot of work as a result of what they want,” he said.
For example, he must design and implement a process to hire a new administrator by Dec. 1.
Marchetti said he’ll work with the Government Study Committee to tie into the new job description “best practices” across the state. The administrator should meet Shirley’s needs for the next five years and can make a “huge difference” as the town moves forward, he said.
The town has financial challenges, too. Laser-pointing to a line graph posted on the wall from an earlier presentation, Marchetti said state revenue has been flat for 10 years. “That’s the concern,” he said. “We need new revenue sources.”
Part of that will be a plan to put town-owned property to profitable use, he said. The Economic Development Committee has been working on that, as well as a long-term plan to attract business.
Another source of funding is grants, he said, and to that end, grant writing.
Those items will be the focus for the new administrator, Marchetti said.
Road to recovery
Part of his job has been to help town office employees get through “this critical time,” Marchetti said. He noted that a victim’s unit and a state employee’s group have been in “a couple of times” to provide assistance.
One difficulty he and Administrative Assistant Kathi Rocco have been dealing with since Keady’s arrest is the loss of their computers, confiscated by state Police investigators. They’re making do with borrowed machines, he said.
Selectman Andy Deveau said he was told the technical forensics should be completed within the next couple weeks. The reference brought up another hurdle the town faces – aging and inadequate computer equipment. Replacement is a given, but the question is where the money to buy or lease the expensive items will come from. The situation may come to a head when the school district segues to a regionalized system with Ayer and the town would go it alone. Servers, routers, switches and other IT equipment are now shared with the school.
“What will this mean as we regionalize?” he asked.
The summary removal of an employee with independent access to the town offices sparked the need to change security codes and reset key cards.
Bryan Dumont, Government Study Committee chairman and has expertise in that field and helped create new policy and procedures to ensure the building is secure. Marchetti said it caused some quarrels, but that it was “the right thing to do.”
Marchetti said he’s also been in contact with the Finance Committee, which is on track for year-end closure, and with department heads to determine critical needs “so we’re not surprised.” Almost all of their input is in, he said.
Wrapping up his to-do list, Marchetti said the latest draft of the town’s sexual harassment policy should be ready for the next meeting, with two new go-to people appointed who are not town employees. That was a big step in the right direction, he said.
“I’m thrilled with the progress to date,” Marchetti said. “I predict a great next-generation town administrator.”
Deveau said the job title may shift as the new position is shaped.
The new hire will “branch out,” into long-range planning and grant-writing, added Selectman David Swain, while Rocco handles day-to-day business in the selectmen’s office.