It happened again.
Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn asked the city council to approve a transfer of funds from one department, the police budget, to another, the new parking department, in order to have enough funds to hire and pay employees until the end of fiscal year 2022. year: 30 june.
The $45,000 request was not the maximum amount the board was asked to approve during the year. But several members of the city’s legislature have said in the past that they refuse to approve banknotes presented outside of budget season.
The funds will be used to hire two parking enforcement specialists to complement the already three staff members: a repairman and a part-time receiving clerk.
“It’s a very busy office, and we need someone to answer calls while other employees handle payments and calls,” said Faye Morrison, the city’s parking manager.
While a super majority of the board voted to approve the transfer, with councilors Adam Knight and George Scarpelli voting against, the process was far from smooth.
Councilman Rick Caraviello, who ended up swinging the vote in favor of the administration, was so annoyed by his exchange with Morrison during what began as a cordial question and answer period that he demanded apologies.
“The mayor called me this morning,” Caraviello said.
At first glance, it was an innocuous exchange.
Caraviello asked to see the city parking plan. He asked if the city would invest in repairing kiosks, investing in parking meters, whether the city will have to issue bonds to purchase equipment, whether the city accepts payment for parking tickets from residents who wish to pay by credit card .
When Morrison said she didn’t have to answer that question, that accepting credit card payments was not her decision, Caraviello retorted.
“I’m not combative,” Caraviello said.
Scarpelli reminded everyone that the legislature controls the city budget.
“We ask questions, not to be mean, but because we are your city council,” Scarpelli said.
Nina Nazarian, the mayor’s chief of staff, present for part of the meeting, also tried to smooth over the dissonance.
“We had a number of challenges, that’s early in the process,” Nazarian assured the board.
Councilors said they had fielded questions from voters over the past few weeks about the city’s parking situation and asked about general plans ahead.
Ask for city parking plans
“We’re asking for a plan that we can pass on to residents,” Scarpelli said, adding that counselors frequently serve as customer service representatives to residents requesting information and services.
Morrison, hired in October to set up the city’s parking regulations and enforcement, said she’s been working tirelessly to bring consistency to parking service and bring Medford up to parking standards. of 2022. It wants to provide its staff with the training and tools they need to succeed.
“Nothing was commemorated,” Morrison told the council, explaining that it took him months to sort through what existed, what worked, what needed repairs, before the city could come up with an overall plan. parking. Currently, the city is following the plan established by ParkMedford.
“I’m taking the city until 2022; you’re still in 2014,” Morrison said, adding that modems needed to upgrade from 2G to 4G.
Residents can renew permits, apply for guest passes, and pay for summons through the city’s online portal with credit cards; however, in-person payments are strictly by check.
Caraviello assured her that the council was not questioning her diligence or her qualifications as parking manager.
“We are looking for a plan,” Caraviello said.
The administration is requesting the budget transfer to hire an additional person to staff the parking office where clerks receive hundreds of calls a day. Even Morrison receives his share of calls: about 200 a day, from residents asking for parking permits, tickets and other relevant issues.
Scarpelli noted that Somerville has 30 parking enforcement officers working across the city, issuing summonses, and eight other parking enforcement clerks for customer service.
“We understand this is a monumental task,” Scarpelli said.
Knight was clearly unhappy with the administration’s lack of response to the board’s questions.
“We asked the city’s attorney to give us an opinion on the city’s compliance with Massachusetts state law regarding recent requests to hire new staff,” Knight said, noting that the request was made on February 15. in April” and the board is still awaiting a decision.
Knight: Are we spending appropriately?
These are new positions for the city’s health department that the administration has proposed to be paid for with federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). And the legality of the position of director of human resources; the council argues that the position and pay scale were created extra-legally by the mayor.
“It’s hard for me to vote on financial matters,” Knight said. “It’s not a question of whether I’m supporting the program or the director, I’m wondering if we’re spending appropriately.”
He cited the administration’s lack of response and lack of respect for the board as a sticking point.
He said he supported the parking program, but wanted to see what the spending program looked like before agreeing to invest additional funds.
Morrison calculated that the department can operate on $680,000 and that it will take more work and more time before it is self-sustaining. Invited to return for a more informal discussion of the progress of the car park development, Morrison agreed and will be available at the council’s discretion.