Rockingham, Bellows Falls push ahead with manager search

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BELLOWS FALLS — The search for a new municipal manager won't be pushed back three months, as the Rockingham Select Board and the Bellows Falls Village Trustees have agreed on a time frame for finding a new leader.

The two boards met in joint session last week to discuss that and other issues.

Shannon Burbela, the town's finance and human resources director, had suggested a three-month delay before starting the search process to allow acting Manager Charles "Chuck" Wise to continue working on "a lot of changes," but board members rejected that suggestion, saying the search process would take too long otherwise and Wise is free to continue to work on his reorganization efforts.

"I'm not in a rush," suggested Rockingham Select Board Chairman Gaetano Putignano.

But others disagreed, and agreed to push ahead.

Since the non-renewal of the contract of former Manager Wendy Harrison this spring and her subsequent resignation ahead of a June 30 departure, Wise, the town's zoning administrator and health officer, has been interim manager. Wise has said repeatedly he's not interested in the permanent position.

The two boards had rejected having the Vermont League of Cities and Towns conduct the manager search, as it has in the past, and instead the boards agreed to some local, in-state, and national advertising. Applicants will first be screened by Burbela, and then the candidates will be reviewed by the members of the two boards, with some candidates invited in for an interview.

She said "from start to finish," the search and selection should take 90 to 120 days.

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Advertising will be placed in The Shopper, as well as posted with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and careers.gov. The biggest cost for advertising will be with the International City/County Managers Association. Burbela estimated that cost at $600. Burbela said she would make a big effort to get the job posted free of charge in as many venues as possible.

The boards debated whether to list the salary in the potential advertisements. After a discussion, it was decided to leave the money issue out.

Bellows Falls Village Trustee James "Jiggs" McAuliffe said he believes the salary range should be included in the advertisement, saying it is often the first thing potential job candidates want to know. He said the advertisement should list the salary as between $75,000 to $90,000.

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"If we want to be realistic, we should put some numbers out," he said.

Burbela noted that if the town and village don't get much of a response to the advertisement online, it can be adjusted.

McAuliffe, who is involved in the concurrent search for a new police chief in the village of Bellows Falls, said he recommended including the salary range.

But the other board members balked and it will be left out. Instead, the salary will be listed as "competitive and based on experience."

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Any candidate with any smarts, Select Board member Susan Hammond said, could figure out how much money the town and village have budgeted for the manager's job, anyway.

The town has budgeted funds based on an $88,000 salary which is split 50-50 between the town and village; Harrison was paid about $90,000. She was manager for two years.

The members of the two boards were expected to get a short list of their priorities in seeking a new manager to Burbela this past Tuesday, according to Village President Deborah Wright.

Wright said Thursday that Burbela and the boards would "vet" the various candidates, and do background checks, including a criminal background check.

She said during the last search, in 2018 when Harrison was hired, one of the candidates recommended by the Vermont League had problems in his background, including having an affair with an employee and also having a financial conflict of interest in his municipal work.

"The internet is a wonderful thing," she said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com.


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