During the Monday, Sept. 19 Board of Selectmen meeting, first selectman Lynne Vanderslice noted that the Wilton School District’s facilities supervisor, John Murphy, had resigned, and that the town’s director of facilities and energy, Chris Burney, would assume oversight of the majority of Murphy’s responsibilities.

According to Wilton Schools’ superintendent, Dr. Kevin Smith, Murphy resigned for personal reasons, and it was fortunate that the town had Burney to step in for the interim and assume the function for the schools. Smith told GOOD Morning Wilton that Burney has both the experience as well as extensive familiarity with at least one school building–Miller-Driscoll–following Burney’s active involvement on the Miller-Driscoll renovation project. In addition, Burney stepping in would potentially provide a look at how the arrangement might work on a permanent basis to bring some cost savings to the town.

“As we have opportunities to explore shared services between the town and the board, and speaking with both Lynne and Chris, they felt it was something Chris could do in the short term, and it would help us come to a better understanding whether or not this was an area where we could combine services,” Smith said.

As for whether the arrangement would continue permanently, Smith felt that the question of having a separate facilities professional devoted solely to the schools is a question they’ll explore. “For me the question is, does it make sense in Wilton to have a single facilities supervisor who oversees the maintenance and direction of the entire physical plan? I don’t know fully what the requirements are on the town side, but to me it makes sense–Chris is certainly competent and qualified and I have the utmost respect for him. He’s best positioned to make an assessment of the viability of the possibility.”

The timing of Murphy’s departure and Burney’s assumption of additional responsibilities is optimal for several reasons. Murphy was able to see the bulk of summer building and facilities improvements completed before he left. Plus it lets Burney gradually assume oversight at a less taxing time for such work in the district.

“In terms of facilities work, the summer is definitely the time when that work goes on. There was some HVAC replacement at Middlebrook that took place this summer. For Chris, it lets him in the coming weeks tour all of our facilities and work with our folks to conduct an analysis of our needs and develop a plan going forward,” Smith explained.

That kind of analysis fits perfectly with plans Burney announced during the Sept. 6 BoS meeting.  During a presentation about town buildings in need of renovation and improvements, he acknowledged recent public criticism that the town has too much empty space (including rooms within the newly-renovated Miller-Driscoll School) and he said that he and Vanderslice planned to take an inventory of space in every building in town–including the schools.

“Every building, including the Board of Ed; every room; every occupant, what’s in it, what should they have, what do they have–to try to put a bottom line for the number that says we have more space than we need, or we have less space then we need, or (I think is more realistic) we can use it in a more efficient way,” Burney said, adding that he thought such a survey would take approximately six months.

Smith welcomes that kind of assessment of all the BoE buildings.

“Part of our obligation of being good stewards is to know what we have, to assess the current condition–and improve the condition, if that’s the need–and to allocate the space in a way that makes the most sense for the town. I’m aware that Lynne has some needs down in Town Hall and that she’s looking for additional possibilities. And certainly, the enrollment is shifting, it makes sense for us to look at our space allocation here in our schools,” he said.