Haverhill Council Subcommittee to Review Findings of Outside Maintenance Consultant

John Greenleaf Whittier School. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

A plan to reorganize Haverhill city and school maintenance departments took another small step toward reality last night as the Haverhill City Council heard from a representative of the company hired to review the status of those departments and recommend improvements.

Robin Haley, s senior manager with the Matrix Consulting Group, and the man who authored the study, explained the purpose.

“The goals of the study were to analyze the correct organizational structure and also to analyze workflow processes. Also, we were taking a look at the technology in use in both the city and the schools. We also wanted to, importantly, analyze the feasibility of centralizing maintenance,” he told councilors.

The report noted there are more than 1.6 million square feet of space to be maintained—80 percent of which are school buildings. Haley said, nationally, the average maintenance person is responsible for 45 to 50,000 square feet while Haverhill technicians are responsible for double that amount. He said there is a need for technological upgrades to track building maintenance and a greater emphasis on preventive maintenance. Lacking these, work is not being completed in a timely fashion.

The report, however, did not suggest hiring new maintenance personnel but focused instead on more job outsourcing and improved technology to reach the desired goals. Haley did say there should be one maintenance director to run the operation and the primary focus should be on preventive maintenance.

Council Vice President Colin F. LePage said the study contained no surprises. He explained it has been more than a year since he and his fellow councilors called on the administration to address low staffing and inadequate spending on maintaining city buildings.

After the presentation, City Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien motioned to send the report to the Public Property Subcommittee for further review. That motion passed by a vote of 7-1 with Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua dissenting and Councilor Michael S. McGonagle absent.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini also told the council that he would be meeting with the School Committee in the next week to present the report to them and attempt to get them on board as well. The mayor said if that didn’t happen, the city may have to look into setting up its own maintenance department.

(See WHAV’s earlier story about some of the study’s findings.)

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