Wilton’s first selectman Bill Brennan announced yesterday that Christopher M. Burney had been hired by the town as director of facilities and energy management, effective Sept. 1.
During an interview with GOOD Morning Wilton last week, Brennan said that filling that position had been a longtime priority of his.
“We searched for two years for this individual. We got a great guy,” Brennan says.
The position was created in order to have a town employee on staff to evaluate, plan and monitor all future capital building and improvement projects and comprehensive public facility plans the town undertakes, as well as oversee the town’s energy management plans.
“Chris is exactly the person we need to provide the technical expertise and vision to develop energy conservation and capital project management initiatives for the Town-owned facilities, one of the Town’s greatest assets. The goal is to achieve net long-term cost savings for the Town by reducing capital expenditures and lower energy costs over time. We believe the depth of Chris’s experience and proven leadership skills make this goal achievable,” Brennan says.
Having someone to manage what he says will be “fiscally-sound maintenance of the Town’s facilities,” has been on Brennan’s agenda for a long time. The position, he says, has long been authorized by town officials, dating back to 2007, following an NESC (National Executive Service Corps) study done for Wilton that year.
“But then we had the recession and we couldn’t afford to bring anybody else on. Afterwards we did the study again in 2013 and we added the energy part of it. Everybody–Jeff Rutishauser on the Board of Finance was so supportive of it. He said, ‘This town has so many facilities, and to not have anybody where it all comes together…’ I think the savings we’ll get out of it just from the energy side of things will easily cover the cost of the individual,” Brennan said.
In some ways Burney will fill the position usually held by volunteer residents, such as, most notably in recent years, Bruce Hampson, who has co-chaired the committee overseeing the Miller-Driscoll renovation and served on numerous other municipal projects (Comstock renovation, WHS renovation and energy conservation) among others.
“Bruce has been doing it, for two years, almost full-time without being paid. When we start the construction on this [Miller-Driscoll renovation] project, it requires daily involvement. That will be one of the roles that Chris will be playing. Bruce obviously wants to cut it back a little bit when we get into construction,” Brennan adds.
It also relieves some of the responsibility Brennan himself had been juggling on top of his day to day job requirements. “The only person where it all comes together with capital projects is myself and [director of public works] Tom Thurkettle. These things on my desk, here, are all capital projects and they require a lot of time and steering committee meetings, and issues that come up and change orders,” he explains, adding that Thurkettle will continue to oversee daily facility repair and maintenance, and John Murphy, facility supervisor for the Wilton school district, will do the same for the schools.
Brennan had wanted to have the director position filled and Burney in place before the town transitions to a new first selectman as of Dec. 1.
“We expedited the process for one reason, so I can spend more time with him. The person who comes in here is not going to be having time to be hand-holding a new employee. It really worked out good,” he adds.
According to a press release from Brennan’s office, Burney earned a Master of Science degree in engineering management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has more than 30 years of experience working for some of the largest healthcare institutions in CT and most recently at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS.
“Chris has typically held Director of Engineering or Facilities Management positions tasked with addressing the complex management and plant challenges inherent in the operations of hospitals and trauma centers. Chris brings technical, financial, and personnel management expertise gained from these past employment experiences to the newly-created Director, Facilities and Energy Management in Wilton,” the release reads.