LYNNFIELD — A full-time administrative clerk would take pressure off a lieutenant in charge of much of the department’s paperwork, according to Fire Chief Mark Tetreault.
As part of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, the chief is requesting $45,000 for a clerk who would handle payroll, scheduling, and other administrative work.
But faced with a potential budget crunch and the fire department coming in with a proposed budget more than five percent over the current fiscal year’s, Selectman Richard Dalton said now is not the time to be adding positions.
“This generally applies to everyone who comes before us, but I don’t think that budget increases of close to five percent are generally sustainable,” said Dalton. “My perspective is that the idea of this administrative position needs to be rethought. We as a community can’t go forward with those sorts of increases and sustain it; that would be irresponsible for this board to go down this road.”
Tetreault said he is not aware of any surrounding community of Lynnfield’s size that does not have administrative support.
“Right now, it’s getting pretty desperate,” said Tetreault. “We have one of our lieutenants doing all the accounts payable, all the scheduling. He does everything of an administrative person. When he has a shift, he is in the office for the better part of his work day and he’s not able to be out with his firefighters doing training, doing area familiarization, and if he’s in the middle of payroll and he gets a call, sometimes that can delay payroll.”
At the fire department’s budget presentation Monday night, selectman Chairman Christopher Barrett took no official position on the request for administrative help. But several times, Barrett mentioned that it was likely not the best use of Lt. James Alexander’s time and salary to be tied up with so much paperwork.
“It gives me pause, hearing for so many years from (Tetreault) that we are paying pretty good money for a clerical position and that’s keeping that person out of the community and being a more effective person for the fire department,” said Barrett.
Selectmen and the finance committee are scheduled to meet several more times in the coming month before making their final recommendations on the FY ’19 budget. Town Meeting voters will get their crack at the budget next April.