It's difficult to run a department when you're short staffed, several department heads told the Legislative Council's Administrative Committee Monday night.
For instance, the Fire Department is down two secretaries -- both took the retirement incentive offered last month to help plug a hole in the 2012-13 budget. Fire Chief Dave Berardesca said that he and the deputy fire chief have resorted to doing the administrative work themselves in the absence of the clerical help.
"We're pretty expensive secretaries," he said.
"It's been pretty hard," he said. "It's a ghost town [in the department's offices] now."
For the past 30 years the department has had two secretaries, he said, and they lost both with very short notice.
It also was a shock when an assistant town clerk took the incentive, Town Clerk Vera Morrison said.
"It's had a significant impact on the office," she said. Last week she worked each night until 10 p.m. getting ready for the deadline for absentee ballots for military personnel for the upcoming November election, she said.
According to state statutes, land transfers must be recorded within 24 hours, but that's been impossible to keep up with because they're shorthanded, Morrison said.
Twenty-five town employees accepted the retirement incentive and left town employment as of Aug. 31, and the council is considering filling eight of those positions -- four police dispatchers, a purchasing agent, an assistant town clerk, the mayor's secretary and one fire secretary.
The dispatchers will likely be hired externally because they need special certification, but the secretarial positions will likely be filled internally and already employees from other departments have applied for the positions, Chief Administrative Officer Curt Balzano Leng said. That means that if they are hired, their former positions will become open and could remain unfilled, saving more money, he said.
The money for the assistant town clerk and secretarial positions -- $128,513 -- will come from bond premium received as additional revenue during the bonding process last month, Leng said.
Council member Betty Wetmore said she would prefer to see the eliminated Elderly Outreach position reinstated rather than secretarial positions filled. That position is especially needed as winter approaches and seniors need to apply for things like heating assistance, she said.
"We are putting paperwork over people," she said.
The council could opt to fill that position if it so choses, Leng said. The full council will vote on filling the positions next Monday.