SHIRLEY — Rather than accept reduced hours for its part-time administrator, Anna MacDonald, whose hours on the job had previously been cut from 30 to 20 and were recently reduced again to 15 per week, the Planning Board eliminated the position.
The board notified selectmen of its decision, which selectmen discussed Monday night.
In effect, MacDonald was laid off, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said.
With the move coming before the end of the fiscal year, the former Planning Board administrator is eligible as a laid off, 20-hour per week employee to file for unemployment benefits, Garvin said, but she had not done so yet.
Voting unanimously for the motion at its June 18 meeting, the Planning Board’s stated reason for eliminating the administrator’s position was to “restructure and/or reorganize the land use departments” with details to be determined at the fall Town Meeting.
The restructuring plan was already in the works as part of an overall revamp of municipal operations and Town Offices.
Sanctioned by selectmen and choreographed by the town administrator, the makeover will include merging the treasurer and tax collector’s positions and consolidating the two offices. That is, if the legislature approves a Town Meeting-endorsed Home Rule petition to make the latter an appointed rather than an elected position.
The plan also calls for other physical and functional changes to control costs and improve efficiency.
In the meantime, selectmen agreed to fill the gap in the Planning Board office by assigning DPW administrative assistant Pam Callahan an additional 10 hours per week on the town payroll.
Callahan’s added hours will be split between duties as interim Zoning Board of Appeals clerk and nonspecific clerical work for the Planning Board, such as fielding phone calls and providing a presence in the office at certain times during the week.
At 30 hours a week — now upped to 40 — Callahan was already eligible for benefits, Garvin said, so her added hours won’t add to the town’s benefit bottom line.
When Garvin notified Planning Board Chairman Jonathan Greeno that the administrator’s position would be cut below the level he and other board members considered adequate, Greeno vowed to fight the decision by taking it to Town Meeting.
“Let the people decide,” he said at the time.
Speaking against the pending administrative cut at Annual Town Meeting last month, Greeno warned it could result in paperwork backup and permits slipping through the cracks, in some cases giving developers a free ride.
For example, if mandated filing deadlines and other date-sensitive criteria are not met, applications are approved by default under current bylaws, he explained.
Town Meeting didn’t back him up, however, voting to ratify the town’s decision instead.
The Planning Board would be notified of the selectmen’s decision to provide an interim solution until the matter is settled, Garvin said at the recent meeting, with the Building Department and Board of Health assistant next door also on hand to help out for the time being.
“Then we’d be looking at a new job description,” which the Personnel Board is working on now, she said. The ultimate goal is job-sharing, “cross-training” and split funding for the position among land use departments.