The Board of Selectmen debate the salary range for potential town administrator candidates. Selectman Richard Blanchard was absent.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen are sticking with a higher salary cap on the town administrator position in order to have more room for negotiation.
But the decision to keep the $95,000 line item in the budget wasn't unanimous.
The 3-1 vote on Wednesday was prompted by a request by one member of the Finance Committee to deflate the town administrator's salary line item from $95,000 to $80,000 because the member feared the capped salary would only limit the hiring process.
Selectman Joseph Nowak was the lone vote against the higher amount and he originally motioned to cap the amount at $85,000.
"I think $85,000 is a good amount of money for a town administrator doing their work in the community," he said. "I say that because the cost of living here is a lot less in areas where they may be able to get more."
Selectwoman Christine Hoyt, who voted against Nowak's motion, said she felt capping the salary at $85,000 would do the town a disservice and is not in line with surrounding communities.
She said Lanesborough, who is also searching for a new town administrator, is offering up $85,000.
"They are a smaller community and they are looking at $85,000," she said. "It would be the same amount, but this person would have a much larger responsibility and a larger community."
With the departure of former Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco last year, the Selectmen formed a committee to lead the new search process. Although the salary range was not advertised in the job posting, the Selectmen have gone back and forth on what they could actually offer.
Director of Community Development Donna Cesan, who has stepped into the town administrator post in the interim, said the amount was placed in the budget to provide "flexibility."
"It would provide the Board of Selectmen with some wiggle room and it doesn't mean it has to be that high," she said. "It just seems to be healthy amount to provide you folks with some flexibility."
Hoyt added that, although not directly comparable, Williamstown pays out $119,000 and Great Barrington pays $120,000. Although these communities are more affluent, they are smaller than Adams, which is the third largest community by population in the Berkshires.
She added that during an exit interview with Mazzucco, he noted that although he left Adams because he wanted to move closer to his home in the eastern part of the state (Mazzucco was hired as the general manager of Norwood), the salary in Adams was not up to par.
"I know part of the reason why he left was he was looking for more money," Hoyt said. "He was working with colleagues across the county and he was making a lot less than they did."
Mazzucco's starting salary with the town was nearly $85,000.
If the salary was capped at $85,000, the town will not be competitive, echoed Cesan.
"People don't want to come here. The trend is toward urban centers. That is where the talent is going," she said. "We in Berkshire county have to actually pay more to attract a similar level of talent ... we are not competitive."
Cesan added that at $85,000, a new town administrator would be making less money than some of the employees he or she would be supervising.
Duval said even though $95,000 is marked in the budget, it doesn't mean the board will offer that amount right off the bat. He added if they find someone with more experience they may want to have room to offer more money, closer to what they may have made.
"It is number and a range. We want to have some wiggle room," he said. "It does not mean we are going to offer $95,000. This will just open us up to more applicants."
Nowak said he did not think increasing the amount would necessarily make the town more attractive to younger talent and noted if someone did not want to move to Adams they probably won't move to Adams.
"If they don't want to come here they are not going to come no matter what the salary range is because that is not their thing," he said. "I picture someone with a young family who wants to raise their family here to come here."
Nowak said he would feel better with the higher salary if it was earned and added he did not think a new administrator should receive this higher amount if they opted out of living in Adams.
The town has gone through many administrators over the past few years, he said, and that he hoped the search committee really looked into candidates' pasts before recommending them to the full board for an interview.
"I have seen a lot of good candidates on paper ... Tony came in we said, 'don't leave we are hiring you' and bang we had him," Nowak said. "I think quality can come with a good tongue and good mouth and not with action so whoever is selected we have to look deeply into some of these people."
Although the Finance Committee cannot change this number they may not recommend it to town meeting.
In other business, the Selectmen approved Vote For Susan organizer Virginia Duval's request to place signs encouraging residents to vote on town property.
"Obviously they are not political signs in they don't support any candidate. They just encourage people to vote," Duval said.
The Vote For Susan project piggybacks off of the efforts of the Suffrage Centennial Celebration Committee who plan to hold a celebration in 2020.
The project encourages residents to register to vote, vote and get involved in local government.
Duval said residents can also get their own signs at McAndrews-King and Monarch Reality, however, the group does ask for a donation of some kind.
Before closing, Nowak said he has heard numerous complaints about folks not cleaning up after their dogs downtown.
"I walk every morning and there are always more droppings somewhere on Park Street," he said. "It shouldn't be going on."
Nowak added that the problem seems to even be plaguing the Greylock Glen walking trails.
There really isn't much the town can do but, he said, but he urged residents to take a stand against dog owners who don't clean up after their animals.
"I don't know how to solve it and all I can say is ... if anyone sees a dog and their owner and the dog defecates on the sidewalk or anywhere and they don't pick it up question them," he said. "It is getting bad."
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