Tensions flared at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting Monday night as town officials argued about ballooning retirement benefits, the new town accountant and the hiring of a $55,000-a-year secretary.
The biggest disagreement of the night erupted near the end of the three-hour meeting, when Selectman Mary Lyman expressed displeasure at the town’s decision to hire a full-time executive secretary for the Finance Department.
“I have very big concerns about this,” she said, noting that Town Offices secretaries should not be making such large salaries. “We are sending a mixed message here. We are talking about trying to save money. ... It’s big money. I don’t understand what we’re trying to do here.”
Lyman said that with benefits, the Finance Department secretary will end up costing the taxpayers $75,000 a year, not including the long-term effect on the town’s pension and retiree health insurance systems.
Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski said the job title was misleading, and that the new employee, who had already been offered the job, is not filling a new position, but rather replacing someone who had retired. However, the position has been upgraded, and the new employee will function more like an assistant to Finance Director Donna Walsh, while also helping out in his office as well as in the veterans office.
“All the department heads have administrative assistants,” he said. “They address a number of things, like personnel and payroll, to take the burden off the department head. This does the same thing.”
Selectman Brian Major told Lyman that the appropriate time to discuss the new position was during budget negotiations, not when the board was being asked to approve a new hire.
But Lyman wouldn’t give in.
“I’m not going to turn away when someone (a taxpayer) says, ‘Why is the town taking my money?’” she said.