[Part II of this report is in the process of being edited and will be published on Thursday. Thank you for your understanding; 9:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 21]
[Addition: We have added the Building Inspector's position in the section 'Other Cuts in Personnel' since the status of that position was changed from a part-time position to a contracted service, resulting in a cut in the funding for that position; many thanks to a friend of NewHartfordPlus who pointed out this omission in our report; 10:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 21]
[[Correction: The wording of the notice originally quoted at the beginning of this article is the wording in the Notices/Announcements section of the town's website. The notice on the doors at Town Hall is worded slightly differently. We have also added the wording of the notice on the doors to this article. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused; 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 21]
By: Maria Moore
With the Jerram administration now well into its 7th month in office, that is, over a quarter through its term, NewHartfordPlus is looking at the functioning of Town Hall to see what that might tell us about the current administration. Following is Part I of Â a two-part report that looks at the changes in the staffing of Town Hall and the way the Jerram administration has handled those changes. Â This report follows up on our June 29 report Notices and Help Wanteds: Town Hall.
If you have had occasion to go to Town Hall in the last month or so you will have been met by a notice prominently displayed on the doors of the building that says:
Please be advised that summer vacation schedules may have an impact on daily office staffing.
It is always best to call ahead to insure that staff in a certain office will be available to assist you if you have business to conduct that is of a specific nature.
If you have a question or concern, and no one is available to assist you, please stop by the Selectman’s Office.
We thank you in advance for your understanding of employees’ vacation schedules.”
A similar notice is also posted on the town’s website:
Town Hall office staffing may be impacted by summer vacation schedules. If you have specific business to conduct that requires the assistance of specific personnel, it is advised to call ahead to ensure that someone with the expertise required will be available to assist you. We thank you for your understanding of summer scheduling.”
Our reporter didn’t remember seeing a sign like this at Town Hall in previous years and she checked around informally to see if anyone else remembered such a notice in the past. Â None of the half-dozen residents she asked could remember such an occurrence either. Â On checking with Christine Hayward, the First Selectman’s Administrative Assistant, Christine said that there had been such a notice before and that perhaps people just hadn’t noticed it in the past. Â The notice itself may be a moot point: if someone has gotten to the doors of the Town Hall to read the notice, then they may already have made that trip for naught if the person they need to see is out. Â The notice is also posted on the Town’s municipal website under Notices/Announcements; however, someone interested in talking to the Assessor, for example, might not think of looking in another section for information pertaining to the Assessor’s Office.
During our own trips to Town Hall over the last couple of months we noticed the following disruption in the service of several offices:
- the Land Use office was unstaffed between Thursday afternoon and the following Tuesday morning during the Memorial Day weekend. Â Rista Malanca, who was the only employee who would have been available to staff the office during that time was taking a combination of comp time and a vacation day during that holiday weekend period;
- during the 4th of July, a notice on the door of the Assessor’s Office informed the public that the office would be closed two days during that week. Â Laura White was on vacation that week and Beth Paul, the town Assessor was working at the Burlington Town Hall.
- on a Friday morning, the general contractor for the St. John’s Episcopal Church addition was using the credenza in the reception area of the First Selectman’s Office to go through the plans for the addition that he would be leaving with Christine Hayward since the Land Use Office was unstaffed that day.
The service provided by some of the municipal offices has definitely been impacted; however, that is due more to the cuts in the hours and in the personnel of those offices than in the fact that it is summertime. Â In the past, each office at Town Hall has been staffed by two employees who staggered their vacation times so that each office was staffed by a member of that office. Â With the recent turnover in employees and cuts in the number of hours staff work, it is inevitable that service to the public should suffer.
Since last December 1, when the present administration came into office, the changes in staffing at Town Hall are as follows:
- January 6: Dan LeGeyt, full-time Highway Superintendent was suspended without pay while police investigated the larceny of town money and/or town property. Â Dan LeGeyt’s employment was terminated on March 26 for thefts totalling approximately $3,500 over a three-year period. Â Dan LeGeyt was one of the highest paid employees on the Town Hall staff with a salary of $63,116.66. Â For the specific reasons given for Dan’s termination, Â see our March 29 report Town Terminates Employment of Former Highway Superintendent…
- February: Norm Paul, part-time custodian at the Town Hall, resignedÂ after having been asked to change his work hours from early morning to coincide with the hours Town Hall is open. Norm and the First Selectman were not able to arrive at a mutually-acceptable work schedule and Norm resigned. Â Norm earned $17,000 for his part-time position.
- March 29: Karl Nilsen, full-time Land Use Officer, was suspended without pay while an internal investigation was being conducted into allegations of time card fraud. Â Karl submitted a letter of retirement to the town effective April 22. On June 6, the Town reached a settlement with Karl whereby Karl gave up accrued benefits due to him and his retirement was backdated to March 29, the date he had been suspended without pay. Â Karl was also one of the highest paid employees at Town Hall with a salary of $61,516.
- May: Roxanne Helt, part-time Bookkeeper’s Assistant, resigned her position in May for personal reasons. Â Roxanne worked 15 hours per week at a salary of $12,573.
Positions Eliminated/Unfunded/Cut In Current Fiscal Year’s Budget:
The following positions were eliminated by the First Selectman in his budget for the current Fiscal Year 2010/2011 which began on July 1, 2010:
- One full-time road crew position was eliminated. Â No-one was laid off due to the move of a crew leader into the Highway Superintendent’s position.
- One full-time Administrative Assistant position in the Land Use Office was eliminated. Â Rista Malanca, who was due to be laid off on June 30 was not laid off due to her move into the Land Use Officer position. Â A part-time, 15-hour per week Administrative Assistant has recently been hired for this position.
- One part-time Administrative Assistant position in the Rec Department was cut from the budget. Â Christy Tellier, who works 15 hours per week, is being paid directly by the Rec Department out of its operating budget. Â This effectively cut the Parks and Rec budget by $14,000, the amount of Christy’s salary.
Other Cuts In Personnel:
Other cuts in the hours of Town Hall employees made by the First Selectman in addition to the cuts outlined above and which were not part of the new fiscal year’s budget are:
- The full-time Assessor’s hours available to service the Town’s needs have been cut from 35 hours to 15 hours. Â Beth Paul, the Town Assessor has been contracted out for 20 hours per week to the town of Burlington. Â When our reporter asked about the arrangement, she was told that Burlington pays a pro-rated amount for Beth’s services. Â Beth continues to receive all full-time benefits from the Town of New Hartford, including being enrolled as a full-time employee in the Town’s pension plan.
- The Tax Collector’s Assistant position has been cut back from 20 hours per week to 12 hours per week. Â This means that Debbie Ventre, the assistant in that department is no longer eligible to be enrolled in the Town’s pension fund. Â To be eligible for a town pension, the employee must work at least 1,000 hours per year which breaks down to approximately 20 hours per week.
- The Bookkeeper’s Assistant position has been cut back from 15 hours per week to 10 hours per week. Â However, Lila Tuxbury, who is now filling this position is now eligible to be enrolled in the Town’s pension fund because she also works 15 hours per week as the Republican Registrar of Voters; the hours of the two positions combined total 25 hours, more than the approximately 20 hours per week needed to qualify for a town pension.
- The Building Inspector’s position was changed from a part-time position to a contracted service; see our report of the March 23 Board of Selectmen meeting that includes the First Selectman’s announcement that the Building Inspector’s position had been modified. Â As a contracted service provider, Paul Volovski, the town’s long-time Building Inspector was to limit his hours to no more than 15 hours per week at a rate of $40 per hour. Â This reduced his salary of $40,558 as a part-time employee to a maximum of $31,200 as a contracted service provider.
These, then are the cuts that have been made to the staffing levels of the different municipal offices. Â Part II of this report will look at how staffing decisions have been made by the Jerram administration.