SOUTHWICK – The Board of Health requested a line item in the proposed FY (Fiscal Year) 2020 budget to extend the hours for the Board of Health director position.
Currently a part-time position, Board of Health Director Tom FitzGerald works 26 hours per work. The request was to extend that position to 35 hours per week, creating a full-time position.
Despite the request from the board of health, the Select Board decided not to move forward with the request during a joint meeting with the finance committee in April to discuss the proposed budget. Select Board Chairman Joseph Deedy noted that the police department was also seeking a full-time position in the dispatch department but that was denied by the Board.
“We’re not allowing to make anyone full-time,” said Deedy.
Because of the annual increase to the overall town budget, Deedy said it’s unfortunate that full-time positions in town departments can’t be accepted right now, but it’s a decision that they feel is best for the town at this time.
“There’s only so much you can do to the taxpayer,” said Deedy. “That’s the way it is.”
According to FitzGerald, he plans to retire in the fall of 2019 after being the board of health director since 1997.
Noting that the position requires several duties such as awarding food permits, working with new housing in town and other responsibilities, FitzGerald believes it’s necessary to extend the position.
“It’s getting harder and harder, the town is growing, there’s more regulations, there’s newer regulations,” said FitzGerald. “We really need to get more hours.”
Although the Select Board has denied the Board of Health’s request to have the hours extended, Deedy informed the Westfield News that the position could go full-time at some point in the future.