By SCOTT JACKSON
As they continued their review of Mayor Thomas Koch’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Quincy city councillors on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to five new positions.
They also made a cut of $93,000 to correct an error in the proposed budget.
At their meeting on Tuesday, which lasted nearly four and a half hours, councillors reviewed and gave preliminary to a number of budgets, including the Quincy Police Department, Thomas Crane Public Library, the Traffic, Parking, Alarm and Lighting (TPAL) Department, and the Department of Natural Resources, all of which have new positions. Councillors will review proposed raises for those department heads and other appointees on June 12.
The proposed $40.29 million budget for the Police Department, up from $34.57 million in the current fiscal year, includes a new position for a mental health clinician at a salary of $97,600.
Police Chief Paul Keenan said the department currently has a clinician on staff, who is paid for through a grant from a private organization. The department is looking to add a second clinician and city officials anticipate receiving a grant from the Norfolk District Attorney’s that would cover the salary and benefits for the new hire.
Keenan said having a clinician working within the department has paid dividends.
“I’m pretty pleased with this model,” he said. “There are a bunch of different models that are floating around the country – mental health clinicians would respond first before officers, that would never work. This one does work. They respond with the officers. They are called to different scenes. They work directly with our community police officers on a day-to-day basis.”
The chief, who is retiring in late June, said he believes additional clinicians could be brought on in the future.
“I think it’s an area that could be expanded upon, because it is a valuable asset,” he said. “I see the difference that it makes.”
The proposed budget for the Thomas Crane Public Library would increase from $3.76 million to $4.27 million. The position includes two new archivist positions at a salary of $53,450 each.
Sara Slymon, who is finishing her first year as the director of the library, said she wants to make its archives and special collections more accessible.
“Quincy is such an essential part of our nation’s history and when I arrived we had deeply siloed our archives and special collections services basically with one person, and there was a turnover time of basically a year to get basic genealogy or local history questions answered, and that’s just unacceptable,” she said.
The library has special collections that include handwritten letters from a number of important figures, like John Quincy Adams and Frederick Law Olmstead, which have not been catalogued, Slymon said; the archivists would help catalogue and digitize those items. The archivists could also help with things like docent tours of the historic library buildings and take part in the Quincy 400 initiative.
The budget for the TPAL Department would increase from $3.23 million in the current fiscal year to $3.37 million in the new one.
Ed Grennon, the head of the department, said the budget eliminates a general foreman position, which has been vacant for more than two years, and increases the number of traffic maintenance workers from one to three. Each of the maintenance worker positions has a salary of about $47,600.
Hiring the new maintenance workers will allow the department to add a new maintence crew, Grennon said.
“There is one crew that takes care of all the signage, all the pavement markings, does all the block offs for the parades, for the entire city,” he said. “Adding the two [new workers] will allow us to have two crews, which will be beneficial I think.”
The Department of Natural Resources budget is split between three separate entities – cemetery, parks and recreation.
The recreation budget would increase from $979,000 to $1.27 million. The budget would provide funding for a new recreation operations supervisor position at a salary of $72,800 and would also boost the line item for recreation leaders and other hourly staff from $619,000 to $799,000.
Michelle Hanly, the city’s recreation director, said the new supervisor position would allow the department to expand its offerings.
“There is only three full-time staff in the recreation department. I’m asking for a fourth so I can continue expand and I can actually see my family sometimes,” she said.
Koch had proposed increasing the cemetery budget from $1.16 million to $1.29 million. At the request of Dave Murphy, the city’s commissioner of natural resources, councillors on Tuesday cut $93,000 from the department’s personnel services budget to correct an error in the proposed budget.
The park budget would decrease by about $7,000 to $4.35 million. Koch had proposed moving the employees who maintain the public spaces in Quincy Center – including the Hancock-Adams Common and the Generals Park – to a separate department within the budget. The salaries for those employees had previously been divided between the park budget and the budget for the Department of Public Buildings.
City councillors are scheduled to hold their final series of budget hearings Wednesday evening. They are slated to discuss the budget for the Health Department, Department of Public Works, the city clerk’s office, the mayor’s office and their own budget.