THE SAUGUS ADVOCATE – Friday, March 8, 2019 Page 7 Hard to Fill Town manager having problems hiring replacements for key Planning and Development Department jobs By Mark E. Vogler W ith the 2019 fiscal year more than half over, there’s close to $150,000 that hasn’t been spent yet on salaries for two important positions in the town’s Planning and Development Department. None of the money Town Meeting approved last spring for the Planning and Development Director and the Town Planner has been spent. The money has gone unused because the town is having trouble filling the vacancies left last June by Town Planner Krista Leahy and seven months earlier by Planning Director Stephen T. Cole. “We’re getting people who are very overqualified and not in the right pay range,” Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree told the Finance Committee last week. One candidate under consideration lacks experience and is just finishing off a master’s degree, Crabtree noted. Paul Rupp, a longtime consultant for the town, is filling some of the void created by the departure of Cole and Leahy. Meanwhile, School Committee Chair Jeannie Meredith has been working parttime as a “floating office clerk,” staffing the basement office at Town Hall. But the town definitely needs to fill the positions with major development going along the Route 1 commercial corridor, according to Crabtree. Cole and Leahy were replacements for Robert Luongo, the town’s popular economic development officer, who left in early 2016 for another job. Crabtree decided to create a special department with two full-time positions. “Everybody remembers Robert Luongo,” Crabtree told the Finance Committee. “It’s hard to find anybody who is doing close to what he did – he was doing three different jobs. He was excellent when he was here,” the town manager said. The discussion of the Planning and Development Department vacancies and Luongo’s contributions to the town came up during a Finance Committee review of the first six months of the 2019 fiscal year ending in December 2018. The Finance Committee kicked off its formal budget review season for the 2020 fiscal year that begins July 1 when Saugus Public Schools officials briefed members on their budget on Wednesday night. In his proposed 2020 fiscal year budget, Crabtree has provided $90,519 for the economic development coordinator and $66,154 for the town planner – a total of more than $156,000 for the two key vacant positions. Other hard-to-fill positions Crabtree has also again budgeted money for these hard-tofill positions: Facilities Manager – $90,519. Another position that’s been vacant during the current fiscal year. Of the $494,703 for full-time positions in building maintenance for the current fiscal year, only $152,950 had been spent by the end of last December. The facilities manager accounts for much of the available balance. Engineer – $90,519. This is another position which has remained vacant for about a year. Of the $80,000 that Town Meeting approved for the position last spring, only $136 had been spent as of last Dec. 31. Human Resources Director – $85,490. In the Human Resources Department, of the $143,350 budgeted for the current fiscal year, only $37,668 had been spent on salaries and wages on the full-time director and manager positions by the halfway point of the current fiscal year. The vacant director’s position has accounted for most of that. Crabtree said it’s hard to fill many key full-time positions in town government because Saugus pays its supervisors comparatively less than in similar positions in neighboring communities. In addition, Saugus has smaller staffs. 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