Board of Health pleads for full-time director

Southwick Board of Health members Jean Nilsson and Dr. Jerome Azia listen as Health Director/Inspector Thomas Fitzgerald speaks to the Southwick Select Board Aug. 20, 2019. (Photo by Hope E. Tremblay)

SOUTHWICK – The Board of Health urged the Select Board Tuesday to reconsider making the health inspector/director position full-time.

Current Health Director Thomas Fitzgerald works 26 hours per week and announced months ago that he would retire Oct. 1, 2019. Fitzgerald agreed he would work per diem through the first of the new year.

“We have some time,” said Select Board Chair Russ Fox in regard to hiring a new director.

The Board of Health included a full-time director in its budget earlier this year, but it was not funded. The Board of Health has tried to make the position full-time for two reasons: There is enough work to keep the director/inspector busy 35 hours per week; and the part-time position isn’t attracting applicants.

Board of Health Chair Dr. Jerome Azia said he believes waiting is a bad idea.

“If we keep this as a part-time position, we will get the same amount of applicants we’ve had since [posting the job] July 16, which is none,” said Azia.

Azia said Fitzgerald is extremely busy, particularly with inspections at several home developments in town. Azia said over the past four years Fitzgerald’s work has brough in a substantial increase from inspection fees – from $16,000 in 2016 to $45,000 last year.

“We are on track to do $50,000 this year,” said Azia, adding that the increased revenue from fees would help pay for the increase in salary.

The Board of Health asked that they be allowed to increase the director’s hours from 26 to 35 and offer a salary range of $54,000-$63,000.

Azia argues that in addition to home related inspections and other health business inspections, Fitzgerald also attends housing court, which most other health directors do not. The inspector is also involved in water shut-offs and state receiverships of houses.

Board of Health member Jean Nilsson noted that Fitzgerald receives town employee benefits so that would not be an additional cost for increasing to full-time hours.

“For 22 years we’ve been lucky because Tom as made this work well,” Azia said, “but three days pay doesn’t work for most people.”

The Select Board agreed to consider the request and research the town’s options.



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