Officials say costs could potentially reach anywhere between $80,000 to $120,000 for the salary and benefits of the new position.
All five members of Evesham Township Council say they want improve how the municipality communicates with residents.
Yet as to what specific changes should be made, there seems to be a split between the three members of council’s Democratic majority versus the two members of council’s Republican minority.
At this week’s Evesham Township Council meeting, council held a 3–2 vote down partisan lines to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would restructure the township’s municipal departments — specially the department of Public Affairs and Senior Services.
Effectively, the restructuring would split “public affairs” duties away from the department of Public Affairs and Senior Services — leaving one department to handle senior services and expanded services to veterans and the disabled.
At the same time, “public affairs” duties would roll into a newly created Public Information Office, which includes the creation and hiring of the position of public information officer for the township.
Democratic Mayor Jaclyn Veasy said the restructuring would allow the municipality to increase to efficiency and better suit the current needs of the township and its residents.
As the for the township’s new potential Public Information Office, Veasy said the move stems from a desire to increase transparency for the township and better communicate information from the township to its residents.
“It needs to be better communicated and it needs to be communicated in a way that everyone can understand and not just come from social media or blogs from council or from residents — it needs to also come from a really good communication from inside the township,” Veasy said.
However, Evesham’s new potential Public Information Office — specifically the potential hiring of a public information officer — is where the main disagreement seemed to occur between council’s Democrats and Republicans at this week’s meeting.
Republican Councilman Ken D’Andrea said he was informed by Evesham’s Director of Finance and acting Township Manager Thomas Shanahan that new costs from hiring a public information officer, without cutting costs elsewhere, could potentially reach anywhere between $80,000 to $120,000 for the new salary and benefits.
Shanahan later confirmed that information at the meeting.
D’Andrea said he felt the township had yet to undertake a proper cost-benefit analysis to justify the additional position and ensure costs would be reduced elsewhere through the restructuring.
“My concern is that the way the introduction of this ordinance was enacted and the lack of thought given to cost of workflow,” D’Andrea said.
Republican Councilman Bob DiEnna said he agreed with many of the points D’Andrea expressed, and he also wondered if perhaps there was already an employee of the township who could take on the added responsibilities of serving as public information officer without the need for a new hire.
“In theory, I can’t disagree with the intent (of the ordinance), but in practice, I don’t know exactly what the mechanics will be and how it will be implemented,” DiEnna said.
Democratic Deputy Mayor Heather Cooper said she was not aware of the estimated costs Shanahan said would stem from hiring a public information officer, and while she would want those costs further evaluated, she was still in favor of the restructuring.
“The outreach for our township is imperative,” Cooper said. “It is necessary for the town. People need resources. Every time we knocked on a door, every time I knocked on someone’s door, people said they did not know where to get and access resources.”
Veasy said a public hearing and potential adoption of the proposed changes would take place at council’s next meeting on March 19.