Patch recently engaged first selectman candidate Kevin Ziolkovski in a nearly two-hour interview.
Ziolkovski sounded off on a variety on topics, with the brunt of his comments being what would be his major focuses as first selectman. He even agreed to use his own paycheck as first selectman to fund some of his ideas.
“One of the top topics on my list is whether or not we should have the type of town government we have now,” Ziolkovski said. “Is our town government in need of a little bit of evolution? Have we outlived the first selectman, board of selectman type of government? Should we be looking at a town manager?
“We’ve had a number of elections that have gone uncontested. But not because everybody has been completely happy with the government of the town. Just that you can’t find anybody who wants to be first selectman anymore. And this is not some low-paying, low-prestige job -- this is the first selectman of the town of Waterford. I find it hard to believe in a two-party system we can’t find a candidate for both parties on a regular basis.
“You have somebody who wants to do the job for a living. Not somebody because they choose to be the first selectman because they retired from their other job, or because it's something at that time. And I know, just by saying this, people are going to say 'you're running for first selectman.' I’m running for first selectman because I do not believe the current first selectman would start that conversation with the townspeople.”
On The Fire Services
“It's 2011, and our staffing is where it was at in the 1970s when I started. If it were up to me, I would be pushing for a 24 hours a day, seven days a week paid department supplemented by part-time and volunteer people.”
Ziolkovski went on to show his method. Currently, seven full-time paid firefighters are in town, and all work five 10-hour day shifts. Part-time workers do weekend and night coverage, and there is no paid employees past 11 p.m.
Ziolkovski would hire one more paid person and then cut the hours of the firefighters from 50 to 42 (Ziolkovski admits there would be a loss of pay). Then there would be four 24-hour shifts, with firefighters getting one day on, three days off. Additionally, during the day, two part-timers would be hired, and at the night, one part-timer would be paid.
When asked about the tough negotiations that would have to take place to get the firefighters union to agree to a cut in hours (and therefore wages), he said:
“As a former career firefighter, I would find it hard for career firefighters to argue against 24 hours a day coverage, seven days a week. Because if they could argue against having people at 3 in the morning, then that opens the door to arguing against why we need them for 3 in the afternoon.”
Board of Education
Ziolkovski was very frustrated with the board of education, saying he can’t believe the board of education is guaranteed by state statute to have the same funding level as the year before.
“This is almost an unfunded mandate,” he said. “I don’t know any other budget in town, any other department that knows this year the absolute minimum they are going to work with next year.”
Ziolkovski admitted the first selectman position has no control over the school budget and that law but said he has been talking to other candidates in other towns running for mayor or first selectmen and a movement can be formed:
“It's one thing when townspeople are talking about it,” he said. “But when your candidates for mayor and first selectman are talking about it, that sends a message that hey, these people get in, that's what they are coming after.”
Ziolkovski went on to criticize the board for a variety of decisions, such as hiring Superintendent Jerome Belair at the same salary as former Superintendent Randall Collins, who held the post for 20 years.
“We hired a brand-new superintendent, Ziolkovski said. “We paid him, on the first day of the job, (the same as) the current superintendent who has been here for 20 years, with no performance from him. What other job could you be hired at the start at the highest step?”
Ziolkovski went on to say it is not Belair’s fault for taking the salary ($198,000), but the board's for giving it to him. He should have been hired at a lower salary and then if the performance was good, had it increased, Ziolkovski said.
Ziolkovski had pointed words for the police department.
“I think that expectations are not where they need to be (at the police department),” he said.
Using His Own Salary
In an effort to make town hall more accessible to the public, Ziolkovski wants the second and third selectman to both be at town hall eight hours a week at the pay rate of $25 an hour. Additionally, a secretary would be there from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, with that position earning $22 an hour.
Additionally, students would staff town hall from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and weekends from 10 to 5.
Who would pay for this? Ziolkovski. The first selectman’s salary is roughly $91,000 a year, which is about $1,290 a week net salary. The cost of this would be $1,200 a week, Ziolkovski said, meaning almost his entire salary would go to this program.
Ziolkovski said he would try this for a few months to see how effective it would be, and then reassess it.
Other Interesting Tidbits
Ziolkovski said he was very disappointed with the number of people who voted in the last contested first selectman election, when 2,300 people came out (14,000 people in Waterford are over the age of 18).
“I’m looking for like 7,000 people to come out. Even if 6,999 people come out and vote against me, that means that next election four years from now it's going to be that much tougher for somebody to come in from the outside.”
Also, Patch said a requirement for this job is that you have to be well-known in town. Ziolkovski responded by saying:
“I’m a pretty well-known guy around town. Not well-liked much, just pretty well-known.”