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Boscawen selectmen mulling future of town administrator position

No one planned it this way, but Boscawen has managed budget season without a town administrator, prompting the selectmen to consider moving forward without filling the position full time.

“People have really stepped to the plate,” selectmen Chairman Craig Saltmarsh said. “That’s what really made us start thinking about this.”

The town has operated without an administrator since Michael Wright, who held the position for six years, left in December. Wright’s departure coincided with the beginning of budget season, annually one of the busiest times for staff.

Saltmarsh said Wright’s duties have been divided, and the selectmen have been reviewing the proposed operating budget directly with the town’s budget committee.

Budget information hints at the potential for change. Last year’s budget included $56,422 for a town administrator. Wright also was paid $6,269 as in-house legal counsel, bringing his total budgeted pay to $62,691. The 2014 budget proposal includes $42,691 for a town administrator, and $23,500 of that has been pegged for an overtime account related to administrative tasks.

“We put that ($42,691) in to cover if we do hire an interim town administrator or an office manager. The rest of the money we put aside for overtime, if employees need to put in some overtime to take care of things and get us through,” Saltmarsh said.

In the absence of a town administrator, department heads report directly to the three-person board. “That is the structure we are currently working under,” Land Use Coordinator Alan Hardy said yesterday in an email.

Any serious discussion related to the town administrator position will happen after the March 11 Town Meeting, which remains the board’s priority. “We’re just trying to hold down the fort and get through the town meeting,” Saltmarsh said. The board will consider all the possibilities, he said, including the hiring of a new town administrator to serve in the same capacity as Wright.

The town has options going forward, said Judy Silva, executive director of the New Hampshire Municipal Association. “The town administrator position is simply what the board of selectmen and the administrator want to make it,” Silva said.

Loudon and Salisbury operate without town administrators, instead opting for administrative secretaries or office managers.

“It all depends on how the town structures it,” Silva said.

Saltmarsh said the best interests of the town and the bottom line will focus conversations related to the position.

“We’ll look at the whole picture and go from there,” Saltmarsh said.

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