Hampden considers backup employees for essential positions

Dec. 18, 2019 | Sarah Heinonen

HAMPDEN – The Hampden Select Board considered how to address the need for a backup for the position of town accountant at their Dec. 16 meeting.

“Rather than having a part-time person, we need a backup person,” to fill in the role, Town Administrator Bob Markel said.

Town Accountant Cliff Bombard suggested reaching out to the current town employees to take on the extra duties.

“The software is not intuitive and it does need repetition to get used to it,” Bombard said that he would like someone to get practice on it regularly.

One problem with using an existing town employee is that they would be in charge of approving their own paycheck.

A back–up treasurer position also needs to be filled. Bombard said Richard Patullo, the town treasurer, is the only one who knows how to enter payroll.

“It’s a real problem,” Bombard said. Markel agreed.

“If we don’t deliver the payroll, it’s triple damages,” he said.

Cleargov, a Massachusetts–based company that provides municipalities with interactive websites, delivered a presentation via phone to the board.

The Cleargov representative told the board that the website they could build for the town would “help your residents to gain information about what's going on in town.”

The new website would link to the existing site and the representative said residents could opt-in to email updates.

Select Board Chair Donald Davenport asked about the social media interconnectivity for the police and fire departments as well as the senior center – all of which have Facebook pages. The representative said all of those pages could be linked to the new site.

Each department can have a “dashboard” created for it. The representative gave an example of a police dashboard that can show crime rates and advertise upcoming town events.

Answering a question from Davenport, the representative said statistics can be input and updated at regular intervals, on a schedule that the town would decide.

As for cost, Cleargov said Hampden falls into its lowest tier of pricing and would pay a subscription of $5,500 with a one-time setup fee of $1,800. The representative said there are no user or maintenance fees.

Markel expressed an interest in applying for Community Compact funding for the product. Markel also said the Department of Revenue would fund one year of the service.

Selectman John Flynn said that he had seen Cleargov in use through other towns and had “good things to say.”

Markel reported that Rebecca Moriarty, director of the Council on Aging, is in the process of negotiating a contract with the East Longmeadow Council on Aging director on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority’s Tri–Town Trolley service. The Tri–Town Trolley is a scheduled transportation service for residents who need rides to doctors appointments and other locations

Markel related that the Council on Aging is unsatisfied with the level of service. Resident Ted Zebert voiced his opinion that the service was “terrible,” and did not work as designed. While the town does not pay for the service, Zebert said the seniors in Hampden are “so fed up” with the service being unavailable that they aren't using it and are instead relying on private rides. Nevertheless, Flynn recommended renewing the contract.

As part of the construction work on the townhouse, Markel said the cupola at the top of the building, which has been damaged, needs replacing. Flynn suggested appropriating CPA money for the project at the annual town meeting in the spring. Other work to be done in the town hall, including electrical work and plumbing, will cost the town “just under [$10,000] for the whole thing,” Flynn said.

The board approved five updated policies submitted by Police Chief Jeff Farnsworth. The policies were part of a spate of updates the chief is implementing to stay current with state law.

The fire department received a grant of $7,500 to purchase new hoods and gloves mitigate exposure to cancer-causing agents produced by fires.

Markel said that a staffer had reached out to him from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs to encourage the town to apply for a municipal vulnerability grant. The purpose of the grant is to create action plans and implement changes to protect cities and towns from climate change–related disasters.

The Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Kathleen A. Theoharides, is a Hampden native.

“I predict 100 percent that we’re going to get this,” Markle said of the grant.

Before adjournment, Flynn told the residents at the meeting that William Chechile, a longtime police officer in town had passed away over the weekend.

Share this: