Increased stipend proposed for emergency manager

West Tisbury discloses that potential fire chief candidate is related to retiring chief.

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Longtime fire chief Manny Estrella III is set to retire and is recommending an in-house candidate as his replacement. — Stacey Rupolo

West Tisbury selectmen will keep the town’s emergency manager position separate from other town departments.

Selectman Skipper Manter had suggested the job be added to the responsibilities of the town’s fire chief, but former West Tisbury emergency manager John Christensen and former Edgartown assistant emergency manager Jim Klingensmith voiced opposition to making the role a part of the fire or police departments.

Klingensmith said the town’s ability to receive Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) funding is affected by its type of emergency manager.

“If you don’t have someone in charge writing emergency plans and mitigation plans … you will not get FEMA money,” Klingensmith said.

Selectmen also reviewed current emergency manager Russ Hartenstine’s proposed budget for FY 2022. The budget includes a $25,000 stipend for Hartenstine — a $4,000 increase from last year. It also includes a $7,000 stipend for an assistant — a $2,000 increase from last year — and a $5,000 stipend for the town’s share of an Islandwide assistant emergency manager shared by all towns.

“I know that my budget has increased rapidly in the past years, it’s undeniable; but the job has changed just as much as the tasks have. I really feel we’re getting close to where it needs to be. This is where I feel like I can be most effective,” Hartenstine said.

The $5,000 stipend request will be made by all other towns, according to Hartenstine. Selectmen also requested the stipend be placed as a separate warrant article at the annual town meeting.

Last month, Fire Chief Manny Estrella III announced his retirement in a letter to selectmen. In the letter, Estrella said there was a strong in-house candidate who would be applying for the position. On Wednesday, town administrator Jen Rand made sure it was on the record that Estrella has a personal relationship with the candidate, who was not named.

Selectmen will advertise for Estrella’s replacement in February.

Selectmen also agreed that the cemetery superintendent position should be established as a third year-round, full-time position with the highway department.

Rand and highway superintendent Richard Olsen said whoever takes the position would be kept busy with plenty of cemetery work and maintenance projects.

“We absolutely could keep them busy,” Rand said.

The former cemetery position was held by Warren Gowell, who recently resigned. The position was part-time.

Rand added the job would be attractive for those seeking work, as it would be a town position with benefits.

“Frankly, the trades are on fire, and there’s a lot of work to be had,” Rand said. “This would create something meaningful, which means that we’ll probably have a wider pool of people to pull from.”

Selectmen also appointed Brian Smith to the town’s personnel board.

1 COMMENT

  1. Interesting no comments here about more money for the public officials. These are all taxpayer dollars so when you get your tax bill you’ll understand why it keeps going up. Apparently I am one of few who it is trying to put an end to the over the top benefits going to all public employees. First major step end pensions and go to a 401(k) retirement system like the rest of the private sector.

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