New Milford hires grant writer, reinstates laid-off parks employee
NEW MILFORD — Mayor Pete Bass announced the hiring of a grant writer last week, days after he laid off several town employees.
Bass said he expects a grant writer to bring in at least $2 million in federal, state and private aid each year.
“We need to realign our government to the reality of our state,” Bass said. “The state has cut us over $3 million in revenue, so we’re bringing in an employee to bring in revenue.”
The move comes after the announcement of six layoffs Bass said were needed to help balance this year’s budget — which had been $2.2 million in the hole — and next year’s budget, which is forecast to have $3.4 million less revenue than earlier projected.
One of those positions — the assistant Parks and Recreation director — was reinstated Friday after Parks and Recreation officials were able to find other savings or revenue.
“We’ve identified $179,000 in cost savings in the Parks and Recreation budget over this year and next year — savings that will not impact the quality of the services we provide to New Milford,” Bass said.
Bass expects to generate about $40,000 by increasing boat slip fees to better reflect prices in the other towns around Candlewood Lake.
The five other layoffs will save the town about $323,000, the mayor said. Leaving other vacant positions unfilled and canceling plans to create more will save the town an additional $532,000, he said.
Bass said the grant writer’s position would go to Tammy Reardon, who was an assistant to former GOP Mayor Pat Murphy. She will make $55,000 a year, he said, during a recent budget presentation to Town Council.
Council member Peter Mullen, a Democrat, said Reardon’s hiring “just doesn’t make any sense.”
Mullen said most municipalities handle grant writing without a paid position. Noncompetitive grant applications are often written by department heads, he said, while competitive ones are outsourced to professional grant-writing companies.
Both Murphy and former Mayor David Gronbach, a Democrat, used a grant-writing company from Waterbury, Mullen added.
“That’s how municipalities do it,” he said. “There are very few municipalities that have an in-house grant writer.”
Bass said Reardon’s grant writing for New Milford under Murphy garnered the town millions of dollars.
That Bass, a Republican, is bringing on a former Murphy aide also raises a red flag, Mullen said.
“This is cronyism,” Mullen said. “That’s all it is.”
Bass said Mullen’s claim is unfounded. He said he interviewed 17 candidates and Reardon stood out, noting she has certification in grant-writing.
That Reardon worked for Murphy “doesn’t make a bit of difference,” Bass said. “It’s just how she performed.”
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