The first selectmen of Durham and Middlefield are looking to share a town planner, a new position for both towns that could be filled this year.
As currently planned, each will propose a new line item in their separate 2019-20 budgets, which need to be approved by their town’s board of finances and the public in the coming months.
If approved, the town planner would work part-time in each town, 20 hours each. Depending on issues, hours could be flexible. Both towns would also share the costs of employee benefits.
Middlefield First Selectman Edward Bailey believes the position will attract more competitive hires, since the position will still be compensated full-time and receive benefits.
Bailey’s budget proposal, which was presented Thursday, March 7 includes a line item of $60,000 for the new town planner.
Durham First Selectman Laura Francis said the Durham budget it still in the works, but will likely have a similar line item.
Both towns currently utilize a consultant, Geoff Colegrove, who is hoping to retire this summer. Colegrove has been working as a consultant in Durham and Middlefield for more than 20 years and spends roughly 10 hours a week in Middlefield, according to Bailey.
Both selectman said a shared full-time town planner would still mean increased time the planner could spend in each town, compared to the consultant.
“We have always had only a contract town planner, so while he … may have spent some weeks 20 hours a week here, that was not ever on a regular basis. This will be an increase in capacity for that position,” Francis said.
“I think it'll be helpful for our towns to have the same planner because we have common interests,” Bailey said. “For example, our transfer station and also, we share schools. So we have a lot of commonality.”
Francis agreed, noting a shared town planner could mean “joint planning, and help us get a little creative with, particularly, development that could be compatible.”
Durham does not share town positions with any other municipality, but Bailey said Middlefield has found success in sharing its building official with Killingworth and is confident it can work with Durham.
Town officials have expressed interest in hiring a person for the position that is qualified to be a town planner, zoning enforcement officer and wetlands enforcement officer, according to minutes of the February Planning & Zoning Commission meeting.
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