Mary Macedo, Neighb News Correspondent
At its meeting on Monday, 4/10, the Fairhaven Board of Public Works welcomed new board member Cameron Durant, reorganized the board after in the first meeting after the election, and met with Town Administrator Mark Rees for a second time to discuss any possible role that the new Human Resources Director will have in public works departments.
At the BPW’s 3/13 meeting, Mr. Rees explained to the board that the town would be hiring a new HR Director to help with the hiring of new employees, job injuries, personnel policies, practices, benefit programs and training. He said that the HR Director will assist the Selectboard, and he asked the BPW if they would like the same assistance.
At the 3/13 meeting the BPW tabled the matter. On 3/27 the board discussed the possibility of using the HR position to assist them. The board’s main concerns were the cost of the HR position, as well as the HR’s authority over hiring and firing.
The board agreed at that time that they were able to handle all their responsibilities without an HR Director and voted unanimously to reject the help of the HR position.
Mr. Rees then requested a chance to meet with the BPW again. He told the board on Monday, that he wanted to make it clear what the exact responsibilities of the HR Director would be, so that the BPW could have a better understanding before making their decision.
BPW Chairperson Mike Ristuccia explained that he had coffee with Mr. Rees and they discussed the HR position.
Mr. Ristuccia explained to the board that the HR Director would not take away the authority of the BPW. Mr. Ristuccia said the BPW would still have the final say on hiring and firing of employees.
Mr. Rees said that the HR Director would be there to help the BPW manage all the responsibilities, as well as make sure legal matters and policies were being followed correctly.
The HR Director is a “very important critical position,” said Mr. Rees, adding that the job is necessary because department heads are taking too much time performing HR duties.
The biggest issue with not having an HR Director is that the town has no idea what is being done incorrectly, specifically in regards to liability.
“The town has significant exposure,” Mr. Rees said. “There are things the town is unaware of, not doing well, or not doing at all.”
BPW member Robert “Hoppy” Hobson asked what other departments in town would be assisted by this HR Director.
Mr. Rees said that the HR Director would assist the Selectboard, Fire, and Police, but not the school department because they already have their own Human Resources employees.
Mr. Hobson also asked about how much the HR position will cost the BPW.
BPW Superintendent Vincent Furtado said that the money would come out of the BPW budget.
Mr. Rees explained that the salary for the HR Director would be split by all the departments using the position. Mr. Rees said it would cost $12,000 out of the BPW budget.
Mr. Ristuccia said he did believe that the HR position was necessary, but the costs to the BPW is much more than it should be. He said that if the BPW could get a review of their indirect costs, and if some of those costs were eliminated, the $12,000 for the HR Director would not be a problem.
BPW member Keith Silvia asked if the fire and police agreed that the HR position was necessary.
Mr. Rees said that both fire and police departments would be assisted by the HR Director.
“What percentage would the BPW have to pay for retirement and benefits,” BPW member Brian Wotton asked.
Mr. Rees explained that was not something he could answer yet because it is based on a formula and analysis.
Mr. Wotton also told Mr. Rees that he has asked around town about the HR position and he heard that the fire and police departments did not want to be involved. Mr. Wotton also said that if not all the departments were involved than he did not believe the BPW should be involved either.
Mr. Rees explained that even if the police and fire did not want to be involved Mr. Rees supervises them, so he has the final say.
“If this goes through, it needs to be more backed by everyone,” Mr. Wotton said. “I think it’s a good thing to have and could be a potentially good position.”
He added that he was just not sure exactly what the HR Director will do within the BPW and that it needs to be written in black and white that the BPW has final say on all decisions.
Mr. Rees said that the HR Director would only assist and make recommendations. The HR Director role is completely advisory.
Administrative assistant Kathy Tripp explained that she does a lot of the duties now that the HR Director would be doing. She asked if the HR Director would work with her.
Mr. Rees explained that the HR Director would help with Ms. Tripp’s workload and that they would both work together. He said he would like Ms. Tripp and Mr. Furtado to be part of the selection process when hiring the HR Director.
Mr. Durant asked if there are job related legal issues that have occurred because the town did not have an HR Director.
Mr. Rees said that there have been some cases that could have been prevented.
Mr. Durant also asked if Mr. Rees would be writing a final job description for the HR Director that states the BPW had the final say on issues, specifically the hiring and firing of employees.
Mr. Rees said he will have a final job description written for the next BPW meeting.
Mr. Ristuccia asked the board if the final job description states all the requirements the BPW asked for would the majority of the board agree that the HR position is needed.
“I’m totally against it,” Mr. Hobson said. “I don’t see giving someone $80,000 to do what is being done already.”
Mr. Wotton said that he is against the salary, but thinks the position would be good. Mr. Wotton said he needed to know how the BPW will pay for the cost of the job without raising sewer/water rates.
Mr. Furtado explained that there is enough money to pay for it, especially if they review the BPW’s indirect costs to hopefully get some of those lowered.
Mr. Silvia said that legally the HR Director would be a good position, as long as the money is there. Mr. Durant agreed the position would be helpful, as long as the final job description satisfies the BPW.
Mr. Rees will have the job description ready for the 4/24 meeting.
In another matter the BPW reorganized the board, which is customary after an election. Mr. Hobson explained that the BPW tends to stay with the same chairperson, while other boards in town seem to rotate the chair annually.
He did, however, nominated Mr. Wotton for chairperson, but the nomination was not seconded.
Mr. Silvia said he would like to keep it the way it was and nominated Mr. Ristuccia for chairperson, which was seconded by Mr. Durant and agreed upon by everyone except Mr. Hobson.
Mr. Ristuccia nominated Mr. Wotton for vice-chairperson, which was seconded and agreed upon by everyone except Mr. Hobson.
Mr. Hobson was voted in as clerk.
The board also discussed the town beach fees. Mr. Wotton explained that they have spent a lot of money fixing up the beach, so, he felt, they need to increase some of the fees. He suggested they increase the per-day parking to $10, so that more residents will buy the $30 season pass.
Mr. Durant agreed that the parking fees are very low compared to other towns, so increasing them a little would be a good idea.
Ms. Tripp also reminded the board that senior citizens are allowed to go to the beach for free.
Mr. Ristuccia said he agreed with Mr. Wotton that increasing the day parking pass to $10 was a great idea.
Mr. Ristuccia also said that he is a senior himself and he does not see a reason why he should not have to pay. He suggested that seniors should no longer be free, but instead get half off of season passes, which would make a season pass $15 for seniors.
Mr. Wotton made a motion to increase the day parking passes to $10 a day and to create a half-price season pass for seniors, at $15.
Mr. Hobson was the only holdout on the vote.
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