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March 31, 2014

City, schools to combine maintenance in Peabody

With one person managing upkeep, city aims to save millions of dollars

PEABODY — The School Committee has given Mayor Ted Bettencourt a green light to move ahead with hiring a city facilities manager to oversee all school and city buildings and develop a strategic plan for their upkeep.

Bettencourt, who chairs the committee, said the city has millions of dollars invested in the city’s schools, public safety facilities and other municipal buildings, and many of them are aging.

“Right now, we deal with issues when they come to the point of emergency,” Bettencourt said, which means it “often costs more to fix.” He wants to implement a citywide maintenance program to extend the life of those buildings and avoid costly emergency repairs.

With one person managing a capital plan and maintenance program for 10 city schools, five fire stations, three public libraries, the police station, City Hall and other municipal buildings, the city can save millions of dollars over the years, he said.

“I think this is really going to benefit our school buildings to make sure the maintenance that’s needed gets done,” said School Committeeman Tom Rossignoll, speaking at a meeting Tuesday night.

Bettencourt said about $1 million in state funding for the new middle school hinges on hiring a facilities manager who would implement a comprehensive maintenance plan at the school.

Bettencourt said the Massachusetts School Building Authority has questioned why the city didn’t have a facilities manager already, which is why he sought to add the position to the city budget last summer. Now $100,000 is set aside for the job.

The council still needs to adopt an ordinance authorizing the new position, now that the School Committee has relinquished control of the maintenance of school buildings. Bettencourt said he plans to present a job description and request action on the matter at the council’s next meeting. The position would be treated like any other department head.

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