Select Board Gives Town Manager Review

LONGMEADOW, MA – Town Manager Stephen Crane received generally positive feedback from his most recent performance evaluation.

Each member of the Select Board issued their ratings in 10 categories to measure Crane’s performance and growth over the past fiscal year with numerical rankings from 5 – Exceeds Expectations – to 1 – Does Not Meet Expectations. The ratings were then compiled into a master document. Four of the five selectmen gave Crane a cumulative ranking of 4 or higher, while Select Board Chair Mark Gold was harsher with a score of 2.7.

Town Manager Stephen Crane.

Bill Low noted in the narrative accompanying his overall rating, “I think Stephen is doing a great job in a tough position and town. He has endured a lot of abuse from some residents.”

Tom Lachiusa, who served as chair over the past year, added, “Looking forward to another year of working with the Town Manager. He has an outstanding work ethic and commitment to our community.”

Crane’s highest scores were in the areas of budget preparation, goal setting, asset management, relations with federal, state, and other governmental units, relations with the media and community, and human resources management.

“The [Town Manager] has improved relations with the senior community. He has worked with multiple committees to get important projects moving. He is well respected in the community. His presentations have been good at the Town Meetings and forums. DPW and the Adult Center were great successes this year. Management,” Select Board Vice Chair Marie Angelides wrote concerning media and community relations.

Regarding asset management, Gold commended Crane, stating, “Mr. Crane is a good steward of the town’s assets. Whether working with the DPW on roadway improvements and building upgrades or the Parks Department on proposing the re-use of Greenwood center, it is apparent that he does take into account the limitation to the town’s assets. To the extent that this goal refers to capital planning, there are some actions that can use improvement (the timeliness of the capital planning cycle) but for the most part, the town’s physical and financial assets are closely overseen.”

Lachiusa lauded his goal-setting abilities, writing that Crane “is able to keep employees in various departments motivated and productive by helping them set clear, measureable, attainable goals,” noting his work on the Police Department accreditation and his work in assisting the senior community.

The biggest complaints about Crane’s job performance continue to focus on his communication and relationship with the board.

“There are still difficulties with communication with the board, material presented and accuracy of information. The snow plow problem, failure to tell the board about a grant presentation, not telling the board about a major incident in town requiring the shutdown of several schools are a few of the examples,” Angelides noted.

Gold also said, “There have been numerous examples throughout the year of Mr. Crane acknowledging that information was not passed on to the Select Board in a timely or complete manner,” citing a number of examples. Lachiusa also asserted Crane was “not open” with the board regarding a visit from Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “This was the second time that members of the Select Board were not asked to be present when the Lt. Governor had a reason to communicate support to the town through initiatives the state was funding.”

Selectman Richard Foster added, “Stephen needs to more fully consider the opinions of other individuals in the decision-making process and understand the value of ideas from people around him.”

Gold also criticized Crane for what he believes to be a lack of flexibility when circumstances regarding a goal or project change, using the WestMass Regional Emergency Communication Center as an example.

“When the proposal went from 5 towns to 4 and eventually to two, he adopted by bringing in the City of Chicopee to keep the RECC concept moving. At least two members of the Select Board have expressed concern that the RECC that was proposed as a consortium of five rural towns has become a Longmeadow / Chicopee grouping without any review of the appropriateness of these two towns working together. This example shows that Mr. Crane did indeed deal with the changing conditions of the project, but in a manner that may not have been consistent with the program’s original intent,” he wrote.

The complete evaluation is available on the Longmeadow website in the meeting materials for the Select Board’s July 2 meeting,

– By Chris Maza