Last week, the Legislative Council's Administrative Committee approved filling eight of the 25 town positions left vacant after the retirement incentive offered to help fill a $1.2 million hole in the operating budget.
This week, the full Council also approved those hirings, as well as another hiring -- that of an elderly outreach worker in the Elderly Services department. It's a position that works with seniors in getting them services such as fuel assistance and other winter weather related services.
"I really think we need this position," said Councilwoman-at-Large Betty Wetmore, who was the first to suggest the council add the position to those it fills. "Where the money comes from, it comes from, but I don't want to keep putting this off."
The money -- $24,140 -- came from a sweep of the Fire Department and Town Clerk accounts, Finance Director Sal DeCola told the council.
"You asked me to find the money and that's what I did," he said.
"I'm not opposed to the position," said council member Tom Rousseau, "but I'm opposed to the way it was presented -- I want to see what it is actually going to cost us."
What the total of all the new hirings will end up costing the town won't be known until the hirings are in place, DeCola said. That's because some of those positions will be filled by town employees in other jobs who already get town benefits, so the town won't incur additional benefit costs.
For other positions, such as the four police dispatchers who will be hired, the town will be paying new benefit packages to the employees because they will come from the outside, he said.
"We won't know what it will actually cost until the jobs are actually filled," DeCola said. "Moving from one position to another won't cost anything additional in benefits" unless the newly vacant position is filled, which council member have urged to keep vacant as much as possible.
"I support 100 percent [the elderly outreach position]," council member Harry Gagliardi said. "We need this position, but I just don't like the wording that the funds are coming from vacant positions -- I'm very upset about that."
"The elderly outreach position is definitely needed alot -- senior citizens rely on it, and we need to remember that is what the focus should be," council member Austin Cesare said.
"I support it," Councilman Jack Kenelly said, "but I don't like the way it was handled."
"Winter is coming rapidly," council president Judi Kozak said, "and this position is needed."