SHIRLEY -- Town Clerk Amy McDougall notified the selectmen that her office hours have changed, Chairman David Swain said Monday night.
Swain said the new hours will be posted on the town website, www.shirley-ma.gov.
Previously open during business hours Monday through Thursday, with added evening hours on Monday and a half-day on Friday, the office will now be open on Monday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.
The office will be closed on Wednesdays and Fridays, but the Town Clerk will be available to the public by appointment on those two days, Swain said.
The notice didn't mention it, nor did Swain, but McDougall has a request in the pipeline to add an Assistant Town Clerk to the town employee roster.
At an earlier meeting, McDougall told the selectmen that she's overwhelmed with paperwork backup, in part due to recently enacted state laws. Without an assistant town clerk to help her deal with daily office tasks and public information, she can't keep up with reporting and records-keeping she's responsible for. In addition to other duties, the Town Clerk is responsible for preparing the Town Report and conducting elections.
McDougall's request for an assistant was tabled for the current budget cycle and is now being vetted, the selectmen having agreed that a job description would be presented to the Personnel Board for placement on the wage and salary grid.
The next step would be asking Town Meeting to create the position and fund it. The bid could be placed on the warrant for the anticipated Special Town Meeting in the fall.
Meantime, the Town Clerk's Office will be closed on Wednesdays and Fridays. As an elected official, McDougall has the option of setting her own hours, Swain explained.
Town clerk explains
Asked to clarify certain points in this story, McDougall provided the following information.
First, the Town Clerk does not prepare the Town Report, she said. That's the responsibility of the Selectmen's office and Executive Assistant Kathi Rocco. For her part, McDougall submits the Town Clerk's report for the document, which may go "50 or 60 pages," she said, including Town Meeting minutes.
As for state law, that's a factor she said, but not the primary reason she's so swamped these days. "It isn't so much state law as the need to focus on non-election related responsibilities," McDougall said.
Since September, 2012, she has planned, staffed and operated nine elections, six of them special elections. "A fiscal year with three elections is a busy year," and leaves scant time for other important duties, she said.
This, combined with the retirement of long-time volunteer helper Marge Marcincewicz last fall and an initial reduction in senior tax work-off program hours earlier this year due to fiscal concerns made her job that much more challenging, she said.
Finally, she addressed the two days her office window will be shuttered. "It is not so much that I will be closed on Wednesdays and Fridays, but open by appointment," McDougall said. "Also, while it is true that, as an elected official, I can set my own hours, my hope is that this particular schedule will help me ensure that all aspects of my job receive the attention they need in the most efficient way possible."