The town of Hamilton is looking to hire a regional human resources director, and officials want to share the services with Manchester and Rockport.
"We are discussing a pretty even split of a 40-hour-per-week position, including salary and benefits with each community getting roughly one-third of the hours," said Hamilton Town Manager Joseph Domelowicz, "so around 13 hours per week per community."
Discussion is ongoing on the specifics of the contract, but Domelowicz said it "is currently drafted to be a one-year contract with annual renewals" to ease the towns into this transition. The salary is also "in the $80,000 per year range," he said.
Domelowicz is aiming to get the job description out sometime in October, and have someone hired by January. He plans on having all three communities involved in some way during the screening process.
"Recognizing the demands and importance of a strong HR department, but with less than 70 permanent staff in town, I thought this could be an area we could regionalize," he said, "which would provide some immediate benefit for our towns and our employees."
Domelowicz now handles the majority of the HR duties for the town, as does Town Administrator Mitch Vieira for Rockport. Manchester hires out an HR consultant.
"It is not fair to the employees to require they escalate everything to the town manager," Domelowicz said. "In the current structure, if a town employee has a problem with their boss or another employee they can’t resolve on their own, they have to bring it to the town manager or, if they are in a union, seek to file a grievance with the union. These remedies tend to polarize issues and make it harder to find a workable solution. It also puts the town manager in the position of trying to be a mediator or choosing between an employee and a department head in cases that ultimately come to the town manager for final decision anyway."
Rockport Selectwoman Ruth George echoed those sentiments at a selectmen's meeting last week.
"I think people need to feel that there's someone other than town administration who they can go to if they have a problem with their boss, with someone they're working with," she said. "I think that's really an important thing to have. So this independent person who's not their boss' boss or (who) they're responsible to, is a needed thing."
Selectmen Chairman Paul Murphy said joining up with Hamilton and Manchester was "a no-brainier."
Also at that meeting, Vieira said that the HR director would be a big help assist new town hires and alleviate the Finance Director from the role as the town's harassment officer. All and all, he said, he was "interested in having the town try it out for a year just to see how it goes."
Manchester Town Administrator Greg Federspiel said he's ready to move forward with the plan "if things come together by the first of the year." In an August post on the Manchester town website, he wrote that the town "needs to bolster our expertise and capacity in the human resource arena."
"... It may be time to hire our own HR specialist," the message reads, "perhaps as a shared new resource with another town or two."
Domelowicz said he believes "these three towns are about the right size to make this kind of shared position work."
Manchester is in the midst of working with Essex on regionalizing some of their services and departments. Despite this, Essex Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki, who handles most HR duties in town, along with Town Collector Jeffrey Soulard, turned down this opportunity to join forces.
"The HR role is already being fulfilled by existing employees presently," Zubricki said. "At this time, it would cost the town more money to get those services elsewhere."
Manchester and Essex are working with The Collins Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston on regionalization talks. In August, the center released a preliminary report defining which services would benefit from regionalization. Zubricki said a final report narrowing down the focus on which areas to pursue will be released "very soon, within a couple of weeks."
Wenham also turned down the offer as its selectmen voted to not create any new positions after the town needed a tax override to fund the operational costs for the town in the fiscal year 2020 budget.
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or firstname.lastname@example.org.