Health board OKs hiring part-time clerk

SALEM – The city Health Board approved several motions Wednesday related to the creation of a part-time clerk position for vital statistics and other clerical duties, all dependent on approval of city council.

The action was taken during a special meeting in which board members created the job, set the possible maximum wage and schedule, agreed to pay for training upon passage of tests and agreed to advertise the job once council approves creating the job.

Mayor John Berlin, who chairs the health board, said having a part-time vital statistics clerk will decrease the department’s cost since they’ll have another person trained to handle vital statistics and be able to reduce the registrar’s hours to 25 hours per week as originally intended and have the clerk work 10 hours per week at a lesser wage when the registrar isn’t there.

The department nurse, who also works part-time, serves as the deputy registrar while also attending to her nursing duties. Having the third person gives the department better coverage in case someone is off, ideally meaning someone will be available to do vital statistics work the entire 35 hours per week the office is open.

City Health Commissioner Richard Setty reported to the board that he learned recently that each department can have one vital statistics registrar and one deputy registrar, but can also have as many backups as they want.

“I wish we had known that from the start,” Berlin said, noting the ability to have backups was just learned through a recent followup with the state.

The situation with vital statistics stretches back about six months, when the full-time longtime registrar decided to retire and the board, with council’s backing, decided to reduce the position to part-time and create a part-time deputy registrar position as a means to reduce department costs. They also reduced hours the department is open.

A new registrar was hired, but ended up working more hours than originally planned. The nurse had gone on medical leave and when she returned, it was decided to keep her as the deputy registrar after the new registrar was off for an extended time. She ended up working more hours until the registrar returned.

Plans call for the new part-time vital statistics clerk position to be presented to the Finance Committee of City Council for a recommendation to amend the non-bargaining wage ordinance. The committee is set to meet at 7:30 a.m. Monday.

The committee’s recommendation will then go to city council, which meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The intention is to ask that the ordinance be passed as an emergency with all three readings so the health department can advertise the position, secure resumes, hold interviews and then hire someone possibly sometime in April.

The board did not want to discuss the possible wage, with Berlin saying the ordinance will likely say “up to $12.36 per hour,” but the actual wage will be less than that.

The next regular meeting of the health board is set for 10 a.m. March 27.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at