HANSON — Job-sharing has been used in the private sector to fill the needs of an employer while being flexible to how they fill jobs with workers who have time constraints, as two workers divide the hours of a single position.
Hanson is taking a different tack — looking to hire a single person to fill the administrative assistant needs of two departments.
The Select Board reviewed a job description and approved on Tuesday, July 26 a temporary part-time administrative position in their office combined with another part-time position at the Planning Department.
Town Administrator Lisa Green said that Town Accountant Todd Hassett had suggested that, since the town’s Planning Department is also in need of an administrative assistant, that — to fill the needs of both offices and make the positions more enticing to prospective applicants — a combined position be created.
The candidate would be eligible for benefits as a full-time employee.
“It really helps fulfill the need in both offices,” Green said. “Looking at the numbers, it’s a much more reasonable approach to getting a third person in the Select Board’s office without breaking the bank, so to speak.”
Green has been ironing out the details of the proposal with town counsel, but she indicated there is support from the planner’s office, too.
“I think this is great,” said Select Board member Joe Weeks, “At the end of the day, I’d like to fund it for the needs of the town. … I just wish we could say, ‘Hey, listen, we need two full-time people.’ We need this.”
He argued that cutting corners in such a way opens the town to liability because oversight is being lost.
Select Board member Ed Heal agreed with Weeks that two full-time positions are needed — but would go down in flames at Town meeting.
While the Select Board members were in agreement both offices need a full-time employee, both Select Board Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett and member Ann Rein agreed they needed to take action in steps.
“I know how hard it’s going to be to get a full-time position funded, nevermind two, right now,” she said. “I think we need two, but let’s baby walk before we take that leap.”
“One issue that was voiced by the town planner is that, as a 19-hour a week position, his office would always be a revolving door for the first full-time position that came up or they may leave for another full-time position with benefits,” Green said. She has been working town counsel on the proposal to develop a title and job description for the position.
But Green indicated at the time that a person who already interviewed for the Planning Department position, and is under serious consideration, has already said they would be interested in the combined full-time job — as have most others interviewed so far.
“It breaks down the job description for each department,” Green said, explaining it would entail 20 hours in the Planning Board office and 15 hours in the Select Board office. It would be a union position, because both positions being combined were already union positions.
“Initially, there were some ethical issues that town counsel was trying to help us work through,” Green said. “It was possible the position was not going to work.”
The ethics of having an employee working for two different offices was an issue, agreed FitzGerald-Kemmett.
“There were concerns over whether we could comply and have somebody work in those two offices,” she said, thanking the town accountant for coming up with it.
“I like that idea of cross-pollination between the Planner’s office and the Selectmen’s office, she said. “I’m not saying some of that doesn’t already happen, but it’s definitely going to happen if you have somebody that’s in [both offices] and you have that connectivity.”
While Select Board member Ann Rein said she thought the combined position was a great idea, she had questions about how the hours added up. Weeks was concerned that the question of who the person hired will report to needs to be clarified.
Green said the position in the Select Board office would be temporary until Oct. 1, and she said the hope is they can put an article in for the special Town Meeting warrant to make the position a permanent part-time funded one. The planning administrative assistant is already a funded position.
“We have to put this wording in here: ‘If the Select Board part-time position fails, the position will then revert to a 22-hour position in the Planning Board office, which would make that person eligible for benefits,” Green said. “Again, we’re trying to work to keep people here.”
“We’re making sure that the Town Planner’s office is not going to be adversely affected by what we’re trying to do with the other position,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
Green said is also drains money from town finances when positions need to be continually advertised, and interviewed for, as well as training people only to have them leave, starting the process over again.
The work she and town counsel are doing will outline the job descriptions and tasks in each position.
Heal asked whether full-or part-time employee costs more. Green noted that it would carry benefits as a full-time position, but departments generally budget funds for added expenses, such as the position’s benefit package.