NAUGATUCK — The Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted Tuesday to hire Robert Roland, a Naugatuck resident and Waterbury Supervisor of Streets, in the capacity of Superintendant of Streets. He will replace Hank Witkoski, Jr., who took a recent early retirement package.
The board set the former Uniroyal Chemical Co. manager’s salary at $72,000. Roland will not receive borough health benefits.
“I think we really hit a home run with this guy,” Burgess Bob Neth said when the board reconvened after an executive session.
Though Roland is a “local guy,” as Mayor Bob Mezzo put it, he was chosen using the borough’s new hiring policy, which was instated in November. That policy is meant to ensure that applicants are hired based on their qualifications rather than who they know at Town Hall.
The change is indicative of an overarching pattern in the Public Works Department, which is being overhauled and restructured in the name of efficiency, according to Mezzo.
When former borough engineer Jim Stewart was promoted to public works director, that process began. Wayne Zirolli, the former assistant engineer, was promoted to engineer, and the assistant post wasn’t filled.
Mezzo said Stewart now acts as an overall supervisor and an intermediary between Town Hall and all the different branches of Public Works.
Formerly, Mezzo said, the street, engineering, recreation, water pollution, land use, and building departments all came separately to the mayor’s office and borough board with any requests. Now those departments all report to Stewart and the Public Works Commission, who in turn work with the mayor and burgesses to ensure operational needs are being met, according to an organizational flow chart provided by the mayor’s office.
Mezzo said Town Hall is also working with bargaining unions to streamline street-level labor within public works departments. That is to say, for example, street workers would be able to provide support for recreation employees during busy months at the public golf course; recreation workers, in turn, would help street crews when they’re busy in the winter clearing snow and ice.
Though Mezzo couldn’t comment specifically on these union negotiations, he did concede the “tricky part” of the process would be outlining which workers would get “the first crack at overtime.” But, he said, “We’ve had excellent conversations … the lines of communication are open.”
Mezzo said there were many aspects of Naugatuck’s governmental structure that could use some tinkering—the Department of Public Works just happened to be the easiest and most sensible place to start.
“Ideally, I’d have $50,000 to bring in consultants or a government reform counsel to do a professional analysis,” he said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, those resources are not really available, so we’ll have to start on our own.
“I campaigned on change, and we certainly do need to make some changes,” he added. “But we need to make sure that change is based on good information and sound judgment. We’re not trying to shuffle the deck just for the sake of it. As an entire borough, we’re going to have to find ways to work smarter for less.”