Town Eyes Finance, Public Works Department Heads

BERLIN – Berlin is now seeking a finance director and a public works director, long overdue moves delayed for no clear reason.

“These are positions that are critically needed,” interim Mayor Gee Williams said Monday night. “We’ve run out of time to patchwork. Those positions are budgeted.”

With a number of special projects facing the town, such as the expanded and improved wastewater treatment plant, $1 million in street repairs and work on stormwater flooding, the positions need to be filled as soon as possible, said Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary.

“It should have been done already. There’s no reason these positions should be left unfilled,” Williams said. “I can’t explain why it wasn’t done. There isn’t a reason.”

Berlin did not hire another finance director after Don Fletcher, the most recent to fill the post, left in September 2006 because they felt it was not needed, elected officials said at the time. Instead, the town chose to rely on audits by an outside accounting firm and a new position, a finance and operations manager.

The town will not require the new finance director to be a certified public accountant, unlike the previous job description. With a regular outside audit, a CPA is not necessary, Bambary said.

The finance director will be responsible for financial matters relating to the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, such as escrow deposits from developers and special connection fees.

“It’s probably the most critical position to get filled,” Williams said. “It’s not just simply paying bills anymore.”

Wendell Purnell, as acting public works director, has handled the duties of the position for some months, unlike the finance director position.

Berlin considered expanding the job description of the public works director to encompass water and wastewater as well as streets and garbage handling, but other entities inside the town, such as the Berlin Utilities Commission, did not support the concept.

The new public works director will be responsible for streets and sanitation, as before, but will also take a stronger role in managing Berlin’s parks, and will act as project manager for the street repaving and stormwater projects.

The public works director handles vital functions of the town. “There are no frills,” said Williams.

 “These were positions that we always talked about, but we were really focused on that one-plant, two-plant [wastewater scenario]. It was just consuming us,” said Bambary. “Things are starting to fall into place. It’s become clear these positions are key and need to be filled.”

Bambary hopes to find local candidates with public service backgrounds. Candidates from the private sector have a longer learning curve than those with public service on their resumes, she feels.

Berlin will also create a new job for technical support in the near future.

“The next position we’re really trying to focus on is a full-time IT position,” said Bambary.

The town is also missing a code enforcement officer, considered crucial by many to keeping the town’s property owners in line with zoning regulations.

“Are we going to think about at least a part-time code enforcer?” Council member Paula Lynch asked at Monday night’s council meeting.

Bambary said that Chuck Ward, the new planning and zoning superintendent, is considering whether the town needs a full-time code enforcement officer or if the job could be combined with other duties.

Berlin also added a new position, deputy administrative director, which was filled by Rachel Bomar in late May.

“The most important thing we need to be doing as a community is preparing for the future,” said Williams.