The resignation of Hampden Town Manager Jim Chandler earlier this week isn’t the only change coming to the town in the new fiscal year.
Under a controversial new budget that took effect on Monday, Hampden is due to create two new administrative positions: a capital project manager who will help oversee the town’s infrastructure projects, and an economic development director who will try to attract new businesses to Hampden.
In late June, the Town Council narrowly passed the $10.2 million budget that included a total of $213,086 for the new positions — or up to $106,543 for each one, including $74,692 in base wages and additional money for benefits, according to Interim Town Manager Paula Scott.
But the new budget proved contentious among the seven members of the Town Council. Councilors Terry McAvoy, David Ryder and Stephen Wilde all voted against it after debating how to fund the new positions.
McPike did not respond to a request for comment about the new budget on Wednesday. He and other councilors have declined to publicly say why Chandler resigned after just a year on the job, and Chandler has not responded to requests for comment.
Scott, the Hampden town clerk whom councilors appointed to serve as interim town manager, said the town will first try to hire a capital projects manager before advertising for the economic development position.
The new municipal budget is up 5 percent, or $508,120, from last year’s $9.6 million spending plan.
The town’s assessor is still determining whether the increase will change the current property tax rate of $19.60 per $1,000 of valuation, according to Scott.
Because of increased revenue from other sources, the actual amount of funding that must be raised from local Hampden taxpayers to cover the municipal, county and Regional School Unit 22 budgets is only going up by 0.9 percent.
One of the opponents of the new budget, Wilde, said on Wednesday that he does agree the town should hire an economic development director in the future, but that adding more than $200,000 to the budget in a single year is too great of a spending hike.
“That’s a big increase,” he said.
Wilde also said that it will be “a huge undertaking” for the town to create the two new administrative positions this year, particularly when it’s also planning a project to renovate the municipal building at 106 Western Ave.
A date has not been set for the renovation, which is primarily meant to make the area where residents can get assistance from town staff more accessible to people with disabilities, according to Scott. The project will remove a storage closet to create additional work space and reroute a doorway between two sections of the office.