ELIZABETHTOWN - The weather was balmy outside of the Essex County Courthouse here Tuesday morning, even if the prospects for hiring new county employees were as cold as ice.
The Essex County Board of Supervisors voted 12-4 to institute a hiring freeze at Tuesday's meeting. The resolution included an exception for nurses and certified nursing assistants at the county's Horace Nye Nursing Home.
Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston introduced the resolution, which was amended several times before being brought to the floor for a vote. He said careful scrutiny of the county's hiring practices could save taxpayer dollars.
Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston proposed the hiring freeze.
"We've got an awful can of worms coming up in the future (with the budget), and I think we need to address it and we need to start addressing it now," he said.
Lewis town Supervisor David Blades, who voted against the hiring freeze, said he was concerned that it could affect county departments - the county jail and the Department of Public Health, for example - that operate under state-mandated staffing levels.
"I think we need to have a pretty clear picture of what it is that we need to do and what we're doing, and to be sure that we don't impact some of these mandated requirements for the county," he said.
Moriah town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, one of the longest tenured supervisors on the board, said that it used to be common practice for the board to review and vote on new hires and whether to fill vacant positions.
"This resolution is needed; it's long overdue," Scozzafava said. "The only way we're going to reduce expenses here is through personnel, because that's where the bulk of your expenses are. And the least painful way to reduce those expenses are when an employee retires. We need to take a long hard look at do we need to really fill that position. It may make more sense to give someone an upgrade that can take over some of the responsibilities of that position.
"But if we just continue to keep filling position after position as they're vacated, we're never going to get there."
The exception for Horace Nye employees was introduced by Westport town Supervisor Dan Connell. A company from New York City will purchase the facility, and the county hopes to finalize the $4 million sale next year. But Connell noted that in the meantime, the county can't risk a staffing shortage there.
"We could end up with not having enough people to take care of the patients," he said.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.