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Assistant town clerk position won't be filled – for now

August 18, 2010
After retiring Assistant Town Clerk/Tax Collector Gayle Cook was thanked for her service last week, the Board of Selectmen talked about whether to fill the position or leave it vacant to save money.

The board said getting of the assistant position might benefit the town and the taxpayers but that they recognized it would make Town Clerk/Tax Collector Denise Morrissette's job that much harder.

When Morrissette politely protested the decision, the selectmen said they would keep an eye on the department and reconsider if the position is direly needed in the future.

"The (town clerk/tax collector's) office works extremely efficiently and is constantly getting positive comments. It's a pleasure to go in. I understand the dilemma," said Benavides. "This economy we are in has affected every level, even Gilford. People are losing their jobs and incomes."

Benavides said the board had the unpleasant task of taking away more than 30 homes due to foreclosures.

"We are taking homes this year at a rate we never have. It's the toughest thing to do as a selectman, but these are people who haven't paid their property taxes for multiple years. The decision has to be made," said Benavides. "We have looked at these tough questions and we know it is difficult for the employees, but we hear people saying we need to do more."

Selectman John O'Brien said he believes the assistant position needs to be reviewed and that a balance needs to be made between lower taxes and standing a few minutes longer in line at the town hall.

Morrissette asked the selectmen to reconsider and said it would be difficult to upkeep the "one stop shop" service without a replacement on the vacant position.

"It's a business, and I need the position. If I could do without it, I would. There are a lot of services we provide through the department not required of us by the government. The public loves them," said Morrissette. "We would have to cut back on these services that are not required, and if we stop these duplicate services, they will affect every department under me."

She added that the position is only part time and starts out at $12 an hour.

"I don't think the board would want to stop the one-stop-shopping. There's a lot of behind the scenes work as well," said Morrissette.

O'Brien suggested before making a definite decision that the lines at the office be monitored without the assistant position to assess the need to fill the vacancy.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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