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Town starts 2018 fiscal year down three directors

October 11, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor (jsalmond@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

There are a few empty chairs this month in Town Hall.

Public Works Director Scott Baker, Director of Administrative Services Maureen Rischitelli and Community Development Director Kara Stewart all handed in their noticed this past summer, and all had ended their tenure with the town by the end of September. Two sought other employment and one planned to retire.

Now, Town Manager Roger Hernstadt is looking for new blood.

"It's the third time I've been a city manager and the first time I've had multiple people at once," Hernstadt said. "But, people leave."

Hernstadt didn't want to speculate as to if his relatively new arrival to the town or his management style had anything to do with the exodus of department heads. Although his approved budget included some benefits package reductions to town employees, he said it did not affect the current employees, only new hires.

"I told (the employees) we would be working as a team," he said. "We would be professional. It was not my intention to let them act like they just have to survive this town council or this town manager."

Fact Box

Town gets social

The Town of Fort Myers Beach has set up a Facebook page for residents, businesses and visitors to follow for town-related information or upcoming events. The address is www.facebook.com/TownofFortMyersBeach.

Now he's ready to spend time restructuring some of the departments while he searches for new administration.

Under the umbrella of the Public Works Department falls the sects of emergency management, Beach Water, Street and Right-of-Ways and Parking enforcement, maritime and maintenance and storm water management.

"I feel that Public Works has gotten too big," Hernstadt said.

The department needs to be segmented off - Beach Water should be its own department; parking meter enforcement should be different than beach enforcement; and beach and code enforcement should be under one leader, he said.

Hernstadt's professional background includes 30 years in Public Works, and he thinks many of these responsibilities aren't really in that realm. Roads and streets, sidewalks, trash and island maintenance and stormwater system maintenance is what the Public Works department should focus on.

A consultant, Jason Greene, has been brought on to cover Stewart's position, but the Community Development director position has not been permanently filled.

He plans to replace the Public Works and Community Development department leaders, but he's reorganizing what was Rischitelli's position of Director of Administrative Services.

Instead of a full-time town employee for that job, he's separated the responsibilities into two contracted employment positions, each working approximately 30 hours a week. As contract employees, the town does not have to provide a benefits package, thereby making these positions a cost-savings.

Robert Lang has already been helping the town with the budget, and will continue to do so as the Finance Director. His contract is not to exceed $75,000 with 30 hours a week. The second contract employee, Marta Fernandez, will be responsible for human resources, insurance and procurement duties. Her contract is approximately $31.25 per hour with an expected 30 hours a week.

Rexann Hosafros, former council member, said losing three department heads at once will mean a loss of institutional knowledge - all three people were involved in many ongoing projects in the town, such as the storm water infrastructure project. She was concerned about that institutional loss with a relatively new town manager.

"I think it says something, but I'm not sure what," she said.

Mayor Dennis Boback said he's not worried about the state of the town, but he also said it would be a loss of knowledge about the town's history and ongoing issues.

"The town manager needs to set up his institution how he wants," Boback said. "I'm sorry to see anyone go. I'm confident he'll bring in good people."

The changes will be an adjustment, but Hernstadt said that is normal with a new manager.

"I didn't ask anyone to leave," he said. "New leadership is always an adjustment. We'll move forward."

 
 

 

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