Marlborough reorganization talks proceed

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Marlborough – The reorganization of the city’s current Human Resources Department, to be called the Department of Health and Human Services, took another step closer after a meeting with Mayor Nancy E. Stevens and the City Council’s Human Resources Commit- tee Jan. 31 in City Hall.

Further discussions about hiring an executive director of Human Services who will oversee the entire department, salaries and annual step increases, offi cial personnel status (union or nonunion positions), possible relocation of the department, and efficient delivery of services to the community will take place at the next City Council meeting Monday, Feb. 7.

Under the proposed reorganization, an executive director of human services will oversee three agencies – Human Services, Council on Aging (COA) and Veterans Services – and their respective managers. The executive director would report to the mayor.

Currently the three managers of the departments are supervised by the mayor.

Ward 2 Councilor Paul Ferro asked the mayor to clarify the personnel status of all full- or part-time positions that would be recategorized under the new alignment. He said he was concerned that at least two positions, the manager of Human Resources and the Veterans Agent, could be classified as non-exempt and be eligible to be part of a union.

Stevens said that it is her intention those positions be exempt and not be part of a union. She said she would follow up with the Legal Department and report back to the City Council.

Councilor-At-Large Patricia Pope said she was concerned about nursing staff, now working for the Board of Health, sharing some time with the COA each week.

“I don’t think there are enough hours in the Council on Aging nursing position [slated to be 19 hours per week],” Pope said.

Pope is worried that nurses in the Board of Health may be overwhelmed with work responsibilities if they have to devote time to the COA, too.

Stevens said the allocation of hours would be managed by the COA director, who would also have access to the Visiting Nurses agency that is funded annually from a state grant.

“We can’t anticipate everything,” Stevens said. “We may only need two to three hours per week, but let’s give the COA director time to manage that.”

Ward 1 Councilor Joseph Delano urged the mayor to initiate a formal work evaluation, training and review system for the new Department of Health and Human Services, which, if approved by the City Council, will begin July 1.

Stevens said employees would most likely attend seminars and professional development training as part of their new responsibilities, as well as cross-training so that they can help resolve citizens’ questions.

This cross-training would not apply to specific Veterans Agent services because of federal and state confidentiality issues when dealing with veterans’ benefits. If a veterans agent is on vacation or not available, another agent from another city or town fills in for him/her.

Councilor-At-Large Steven Levy said the concept of reorganizing the department was to deliver better services to the people, such as having a defined chain of command and efficient coordination of those services to people in need.

Ward 5 Councilor Robert Seymour and Delano encouraged Stevens to follow the recommendations of the Human Services Task Force, a committee of local and regional business and personnel experts, as well as city councilors, which opened the door to a potential reorganization and realignment.

Ward 3 Councilor Matt Elder, Levy and Delano said the proposed starting salary and automatic step increases for managers within the new reorganization should be discussed and refined before a final vote is taken on the issue.