Before writing a check, Mayor Joseph Solomon said Tuesday he wants to ensure the money is in the account even though it could mean two positions – a janitor at the Warwick Public Library and the city nurse – will go unfulfilled for an indefinite period.
Both the library and the Human Services division that provides office space for the nurse in the Pilgrim Senior Center have made do while the positions have gone unfilled.
Meg Underwood, director of senior services, said she has found herself in unfamiliar territory ordering medical supplies. But it’s the seniors who feel at a loss without a nurse.
“There’s always someone who has a physical problem,” said Gail Felix, who has been a center regular for the last 10 years. She said within the last week a senior fell and cut their face, a situation that the nurse would have handled.
“They need someone they can talk to,” said Felix. On average, Felix said she talked to the nurse once or twice a week.
“They need someone to talk to without paying a $50 co-pay to go to their primary,” she said. “Of all things to not have a nurse at a senior center.”
Of primary concern at the library are cleanly restrooms.
“We have no one to clean the restrooms,” library director Christopher LaRoux reported yesterday. “We stock the paper, but we’re not allowed to clean restrooms.”
LaRoux said cleaning the restrooms as well as the rest of the building at the main library and its branches has been a challenge since the lead custodian left in May, officially retiring as of June 1. That left two other custodians, one who works days and the other at nights.
On Wednesday, the day custodian was out and the night custodian couldn’t fill in. LaRoux put in calls to the Department of Public Works that has been about on a part-time basis, usually four hours, to divert a custodian to the library.
Richard Crenca, director of Public Works, said his crews have been able to fill in on a temporary basis with overtime costs incurred being billed to the library.
It’s not like vacancy came as a surprise.
City nurse Pat Seltzer retired, moving to Oregon. Both positions were posted and LaRoux said the library was prepared to start interviewing candidates when told there would be a delay. In addition, three part-time shelving positions have likewise gone unfilled.
LaRoux said he has not been given an explanation or talked to the mayor about the situation. He said if the mayor is seeking to realign positions he would welcome working with him.
So, is there a citywide job freeze?
Solomon was rankled by the term “job freeze.” That’s not what’s happening, he said in an interview Tuesday.
“There might be a lot of unfilled positions, but I cannot fill a position that I know I may have to eliminate in a few months. That’s not fair to the person I’m giving the position, and I’m not going to buy something if I don’t have the money to pay for it,” Solomon said.
Does that mean he doesn’t trust the budget numbers as approved by the City Council, which he later signed?
“We had schools looking for eight million dollars, we had raises that had to be paid that weren’t accounted for in the budget. We had $4 million or $5 million in raises to the school department, and they were level funded, so where was that to come from? These are the cards the council had to deal with. To do anything that would be irresponsible, there was nothing irresponsible or over-taxing on behalf of the council addressing the former mayor’s budget,” Solomon answered.
LaRoux said the lead custodian position was budgeted and he has no reason to think that the money wouldn’t be available. The position is budgeted for $58,473.
As for the three part-time shelving positions, LaRoux said library staff have been covering those jobs, but it’s become increasingly difficult.
“It’s tough in the summer; it’s very busy,” he said.
City Personnel Director Jean Bouchard said the deadline for applications for the nurse wellness coordinator that comes under the department of Human Services was April 26. The deadline for the custodial position was April 19.
Bouchard did not have a total of unfilled city positions, adding, “There’s quite a lot.” She said positions are being filled with the most recent one being last week.