Middlefield's Board of Finance is seeking more information as it deals with a request to increase the salary of the town's top building official.
At a Jan. 17 meeting, board members spent about 45 minutes discussing a decision last year by First Selectman Jon Brayshaw to increase building inspector Robert Meyers' hours from 21 per week to 28, to deal with an "overflow of building permits."
Chairman Lucy Petrella said the board received the first selectman's request on Nov. 16 but never approved the increase but that Meyers had already accrued 60 hours beyond what the position was budgeted for.
"It's a line item overage, and in order to justify it I think you need to start here. He needs to come here to get approval of the funds," Petrella said.
While there were not enough members present at last week's meeting for a quorum, the three members in attendance — Petrella, Jim Irish and Alice Malcolm — openly discussed whether the increase in hours was justified.
"We haven't seen adequate information to justify an increase of over 30-percent in the hours," Irish said.
"We're not exactly looking at a time frame where, like the 80's, when we had all these building booms here. It might be picking up a bit, I don't know," Petrella added.
According to Petrella, the Nov. 16 request called for an additional 198 hours, or seven additional hours each week until the end of the current fiscal year. The additional hours would increase the budget line by $7,189, she said.
Meyers' current salary is $38,861 annually, for a 21-hour work week.
In his initial request to the board, Brayshaw cited two proposed subdivisions, ongoing construction at Powder Ridge and Indian Springs Golf Course and at least two other other building projects as the reason for increased hours.
Board members, however, expressed concerned that some of the work hadn't begun and even discussed whether it be more financially suitable for the town to eliminate the building inspector position altogether and hire an outside company on an "as-needed" basis.
"I think this is worth exploring," Petrella said.
Malcolm also expressed frustration with Brayshaw's decision to approve the extended hours without getting the board's approval.
"What's the purpose of having a board of finance," Malcolm asked. "He cannot increase the hours without the authorization."
Irish pointed out that the finance board went through a similar process last year after receiving a request for increased hours from the town's park and recreation director.
Eventually, after several lengthy discussions and even a town meeting, the request was approved, Petrella said.
Petrella said she planned to write a letter to send to Brayshaw and Meyers requesting more information about upcoming projects and the need for additional hours.
"If we're going to be effective, we need to be effective," she said.