FAIR HAVEN CUTS ADMINISTRATOR’S HOURS

mary-howellAdministrator Mary Howell at Monday’s council meeting, where her hours were cut and some of her duties were handed off to Clerk Allyson Cinquegrana, in background. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

[EDITOR’S NOTE: See update below]

Less than a year after giving a three-year contract with sweet annual raises to borough Administrator Mary Howell, Fair Haven officials have shaken things up at borough hall with what they call a cost-saving “experiment.”

The council yesterday cut Howell’s hours and salary in half.

The action, taken after an hour-long executive session, was taken to reflect “a number of things both personally and financially,” Mayor Michael Halfacre said at an unusual Monday morning council meeting.

Howell, who recently returned in an informal part-time role to her administrator duties after giving birth to a boy in October, was hired in 2007 at $80,000 per year. Last April, the council voted to give her a raise to $99,000 in a contract that would boost her base pay to $105,000 this year and $111,000 next year.

With this latest move, though, Halfacre said the borough will save $50,000 in 2010 by chopping Howell’s salary from $105,000 down to $52,500. The deal was mutually agreed upon at Monday’s executive session, he said..

Halfacre said the move made sense so Howell can take care of her son and Fair Haven can save a little cash in a difficult budget year.

“It was a coming together of a couple different things,” he said. Given that her family circumstances have prevented Howell from returning to full-time status, Halfacre added, “We’re kind of formalizing what’s been going.”

Howell, who will now be in the office on Mondays and Tuesdays and available only by phone and e-mail the rest of the week, said she felt uncomfortable discussing the matter with redbankgreen, saying only that it’s what’s best for the town right now and she’ll be able to be with her son more.

With Howell’s limited presence at borough hall, that means borough Clerk Allyson Cinquegrana will fill the gap. She’ll get a raise, from $57,222 to $60,655, to take on the title of assistant borough administrator along with her responsibilities as clerk. [UPDATE: Cinquegrana’s pay raise is for her position as borough clerk. The assistant borough administrator title must be created through an ordinance and passed by the council, Cinquegrana said. Her pay for that position will be decided at Fair Haven’s next council meeting on February 22.]

This move is one Halfacre stressed is an experiment, which may or may not stick for the long term. If Howell or the council is unsatisfied with the arrangement, the contract can be terminated within 60 days, he said.