By Sara Brown, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – The Southborough Board of Health would like to make its three part-time staff positions into full-time positions as it faces what it describes as overwhelming community needs especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Selectmen are worried taxpayers won’t go for a 100 percent increase in the board’s budget at town meeting later this year.
Board of Health makes case for full-time positions
The Board of Health currently employs a public health director, a public health nurse and an administrative assistant.
All those individuals work some variation of a part-time schedule.
“We are poorly positioned to deal with the spread of this illness or any illness,” Board Chair Mary Lou Woodford said during an April 6 selectmen meeting.
Woodford explained the town has “underinvested” in its public health for “too long” and said Southborough is at risk of losing its current public health director if it does not convert that position into a full-time gig.
“I don’t think you all comprehend how stressed this department is,” she said, addressing Selectmen. “I know everyone is stressed but we are the ones that are dealing with the pandemic head on.”
Selectmen offered their compassion but reiterated concerns about passing a budget increase.
“I think we all understand the Board of Health’s position,” Chair Martin Healey said. “Still, more than a 100 percent increase from last year is a bit of a jolt.”
Vice chair Lisa Braccio wondered if there was a staggered way to add the full-time positions over multiple years.
“It’s a big bite for taxpayers to take,” she said. “I am trying to find balance.”
Federal aid money introduces funding variable
Selectmen Chelsea Malinowski proposed the town hold an additional fall town meeting to allow voters to weigh in on positions then.
This way, Malinowski suggested, Southborough could fund full-time jobs with federal funding and special stimulus aid until at least the end of 2021.
Malinowski’s colleagues suggested this could be risky, saying that if the town doesn’t vote for the positions and if it can’t find additional funding, it could lose its health workers at the end of the year.
Regardless, Selectmen agreed to continue to look into that idea moving forward.