Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt
By ADAM SWIFT
PEABODY — The heads of the city’s parks and building departments are getting substantial bumps in pay.
Last week, the city council approved Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr.’s recommendation to raise the salaries for the building inspector and for the Parks, Recreation and Forestry director to $99,634.
“The mayor presented a competitive salary analysis submitted by Human Resources,” said Councilor-at-Large David Gravel. “His recommendation was to change each position from the current level to $99,634 to make them consistent with other department heads in the city.”
Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw voted against the salary increases. He said he has no issue with the department heads, Albert Talarico in the building department and Jennifer Davis in parks, but questioned the need for such a hefty salary increase.
Previous to the council vote, Talarico earned $82,484 and Davis $81,782.
“My good conscience could not approve what would be a 25 percent pay raise in just eight months,” said Saslaw. “Do I believe they are entitled to a raise? Absolutely I believe they need a raise; but in this day and age, to face my constituents and say I approved a 25 percent pay raise, I don’t know many people who get those kind of pay raises these days.”
But Gravel said that in the business world, when something is wrong you have to make it right.
“If something is not fair, you have got to make it fair if something is not competitive,” he said. “You’ve got to protect yourself in your investments. It’s my opinion that when something is totally out of whack, you have to bring it to where it ought to be.”
Gravel said he also has to defend the salary increases to voters across the city.
“I’m not afraid to tell any one of my constituents why I supported this because I believe this is the right thing to do,” said Gravel. “I voted in support of this because I believe it is the right thing to do.”
Saslaw said he didn’t believe the department head salaries were that “out of whack.”
He added that even a double-digit increase might be justified, but not the increase as voted in by the council. Saslaw cast the lone vote against the increase, although Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin and Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz were unable to attend the meeting.
The salary increases were effective Oct. 27, with no retroactive pay. There will also be two percent increases effective July 1, 2017, bringing the salaries to $101,626.
Adam Swift can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.