| Trent Levakis
SOUTH HADLEY — In a May 16 joint meeting with the Board of Health, the Selectboard voted to approve an ARPA request to add an administrative assistant to health department to assist in backed up work.
The Selectboard approved $25,000 for fiscal year 2024 and earmarked $50,000 for the subsequent years that will also be approved following check ins during the future budgeting seasons. South Hadley Public Health Director Sharon Hart broke down the need for the department citing that with the additional work received during the coronavirus pandemic, there is a backload of paperwork to be filed, managed and preserved.
“We’re looking to have somebody come in and help us with our office files and records management, scanning, all kinds of things like that,” Hart said.
Hart explained the workload increase from the coronavirus pandemic for the department has created a backlog of work for the three full-time inspectional employees in the department of public health. She added a part-time admin would help the department catch up on management of work.
Hart also said that potentially incorporating a software program for old records and documents in the department would help in preserving information and making access to it easier.
“We’re extremely busy and this is where we’re lacking right now,” Hart said.
When asked by the Selectboard how much paperwork and filing they are working with, Hart described over 10 different filing cabinets that needed to be checked through and preserved and added the scene of backed up work was “embarrassing.”
The strain of the pandemic was felt most by those in the field of public health, which has brought up the backlog of work, according to Hart. The assistant position will help them make up ground moving forward. As for a software program to take on the bulk of the physical paperwork, costs may be too difficult for that to be the direct solution.
According to Town Administrator Lisa Wong, the project to take paper documents and put it into a software system is “extremely expensive.” Wong noted for example at least one office in town would cost $80,000 to transfer historic data into a software program.
Wong said with that being said, a better option to consider in the future was making a point where all future paperwork and documents start to be entered into a software, but realistically based on costs the old records would be a tall task to also include and preserve through a software.
Selectboard member Nicole Casolari said she supported the need of the health department but wanted to earmark the last two years requested and bring back the health department at future budgeting sessions to check in.
“I know COVID put a strain on your office entirely so I completely agree the money is needed to go there but I do like the idea one year to start because we also have a wage and classification study that next year should have some information and that might change how we view this position in terms of should it be ARPA,” Casolari said. “Just trying to put into perspective what we have and make a plan.”