After one year on the job, Town Manager Kirk Blouin updated residents Thursday on changes that have been made to staff and policies and identified issues facing the town.
Mr. Blouin spoke prior to the Town Council Candidates Debate sponsored by the Palm Beach Civic Association at the parish hall of The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea.
Mr. Blouin credited Mayor Gail Coniglio with spearheading one of the town’s biggest accomplishments – the Midtown Nourishment Project being deemed a federal project. The town will receive $25 million from the federal government, an additional $7.4 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and $5.4 million in FEMA relief.
Mr. Blouin spoke about his vision and leadership style.
“It’s really quite simple,” he said. “My vision is to maintain or increase level of service to the town, while looking for ways to reduce costs and, in some cases, generate revenue.”
Mr. Blouin said he begins with the staff and makes sure he has the right people in the right places.
He’s revamped the way people are promoted. Instead of it being based on seniority, it’s based on “what positive impacts you’ve had within your individual department and what positive impacts you’ve made within this community.”
He noted two recent hires in the Planning, Zoning and Building department.
“We ended up with two exceptional people that will provide new leadership” he said. “Once you have the right people in place, now you have to have standards of conduct and standards of behavior … and enforce those standards.”
Mr. Blouin said his biggest challenge over the past year has been to get all the department heads “to buy into the sense of urgency and break through the status quo.”
“Change is scary,” he said. “There’s risk involved … I try to convince members of the team that I will be shoulder-to-shoulder to you in that new-found risk that we are going to take on. I’ll take the blame, because I know we will have much more wins than losses.”
Among the changes: hiring and promoting policies, a management restructuring plan, technology, bidding on work contracts and negotiating contracts with vendors.
“We negotiate contracts now,” he said. “My job is to get the best price for the town with your tax dollars.”
The town has instituted a green initiative, eliminating the use of pesticides and moving to the planting of native species, he said.
The recreation center is on schedule to be completed in November and will capture some additional revenue sources; while the building of a world-class marina will be a great source of revenue as well, he said.
Regarding the budget, Mr. Blouin said there was no increase to homesteaded property owners and the town has identified $6.8 million that can be put toward the town’s unfunded liability. That problem should be solved in less than 12 years, he said. They are currently in the budget process for fiscal year 2019-2020.
“I expect that we will deliver you another lean budget,” Mr. Blouin said.