BEACON FALLS — Selectman Michael Krenesky called for changes that would make the First Selectman a full-time position with appropriate pay and benefits.
“I believe that we need to have a very heartfelt discussion over making first selectman a full-time position for the town of Beacon Falls,” Krenesky said at the special meeting of the Board of Selectman Monday night.
First Selectman Susan Cable said she works many more hours than she is compensated for even though the position is currently part time.
“I’ve been able to give a full-time job for a part-time salary,” she said.
However, she said she would oppose the change because she has other priorities for the town, including hiring a full-time town clerk and tax collector, positions she felt are more advantageous.
Cable said there is a misconception that other First Selectmen in Connecticut sit in their offices from 9 to 5, but that’s not the case, even if they work full time.
Although it would be nice to have the extra cash, Cable said her duties wouldn’t change if her position was full time.
“It’s 24/7 no matter what,” Cable said.
She was on call the past few weeks to deal with snow issues in Beacon Falls while vacationing in Hawaii.
Krenesky said Beacon Falls needs a full-time first selectman to keep up with unfunded federal and state mandates.
“The municipal environment has changed so much in the last decade that the town of Beacon Falls needs to look and move forward to remain competitive with other communities, each of which is vying for the limited federal and state funding that exists today,” Krenesky said.
The one thing that might change if first selectman was a full-time position is that Cable could have more challengers.
Krenesky said he hoped increasing the salary from $34,000 to $65,000 and adding full medical benefits will entice more candidates to run for the office.
Krenesky was her only challenger in the last election.
With a part-time position, not many people are willing to give up their current jobs to run, Krenesky said.
“Several individuals have been approached about running for this office, but have declined because the dollars do not match the responsibilities,” Krenesky said. “The number of people willing to risk their current full-time jobs by taking on what is really a 24 hour-a-day elected position is rapidly declining.”
Selectman Dominc Sorrentino agreed that increasing the salary might open up the race for first selectman.
“I think we’re a growing town and I think we need to give some thought to it,” he said.
Former fire chief and current captain Dave Rybinski agreed.
“If you want a real qualified person, like anything, you’ve got to pay,” he said.
With the poor economy and smaller tax revenue, Cable said she doesn’t see any increases in next year’s budget, including adding any full-time positions.
“The town of Beacon Falls right now can’t afford anything, changes in the budget,” Cable said.
Although he understands the town is facing tough economic times, Krenesky said it is important to bring up the possibility of changing the position.
“The time will never be right, but I think it is important not to let this conversation just drop off the table,” Krenesky said.
Now would be a good time to look at changes as the town prepares next year’s budget, Krenesky said. Since the town has no charter or formal job description beyond state statutes, making it a full-time position would be as simple as changing a line item on the budget, Krenesky said.
In addition to changing first selectman from part to full time, Krenesky hopes to restructure the board to give each selectman specific duties, such as oversight of individual town departments.
“I have witnessed personnel issues in several town departments that have not been addressed in a timely manner. Having a full-time administrator in the building to address challenges as they occur will benefit town employees and the community,” Krenesky said.
While the town should budget for the salary increase now, Krenesky said any changes to positions would not take effect until Dec. 1, after the 2011 municipal elections.
“I have spent the last year scrutinizing the many issues that cross the desk of the first selectman and there are holes that can be plugged with a full-time administrator. It is time to build for the future,” Krenesky said.