Chatham Raids Harwich's Community Development Department

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Development , Municipal Planning and Zoning

Aly Sabatino will be starting work as Chatham's town planner.  FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — Harwich's loss will be Chatham's gain as two employees in the town's community development department have informed Town Administrator Christopher Clark they have taken jobs in Chatham.

Clark announced this past week that town planner Aly Sabatino and building inspector Jay W. Briggs are leaving to take positions in Chatham. Briggs has already left; he started work on Monday as Chatham's building commissioner/zoning and sign code enforcement agent. Sabatino's last day in Harwich is Dec. 8 and she starts as principal planner in Chatham on Dec. 11.

“Both were a real surprise to me,” Clark said of the departures.

Chatham has had some upheaval in its community development department over the past year, with building commissioner Justin Post leaving last January to take a position in Wellfleet. Local inspector Jeff Chandler stepped in as acting commissioner and zoning agent at that time. Chandler will now resume his duties as local inspector. The principal planner's position has been vacant since March when Kathleen (Katie) Donovan was promoted to director of community development following the departure of Deanna Ruffer.

Now the shoe is on the other foot for Harwich. Clark said compensation levels and an upgrade from local inspector to building commissioner were factors in Briggs' decision. Compensation levels are something Harwich will have to examine, Clark said.

“It was difficult to leave Harwich. There are so many good people at work there and in the town,” Briggs said Tuesday. “But this is an opportunity for me and my career.”

Clark praised both Briggs' and Sabatino's service to the town over their short tenure. “Briggs has a nice personality, a good head on his shoulders and is a hard worker,” Clark said. “It makes sense in his case to move from the local inspector's position to take the building commissioner's position.

“Aly will be the town planner working under the community development director. She was an excellent employee, integrating very well. She is very personal, professional and did a good job for us,” Clark said. “In an exit interview Aly said she had built a good relationship with Katie (Donovan) and she would be making $10,000 more and will have more resources available to her.”

“It's a good opportunity for me,” Sabatino told The Chronicle on Monday. “I'm excited to work with Katie as the head of community development. I think we will be a good team.”

Sabatino said it was hard for her to pass up the whole package, which included the financial benefit.

“It was a very hard decision, honestly,” she said. “I really enjoyed my co-workers a lot. I enjoyed the residents of Harwich I spoke with and I enjoyed working with the planning board.”

Sabatino came to Harwich a little more than a year ago when former town planner David Spitz retired. She previously worked in Southold, N. Y., on the east end of Long Island, where she served on a staff of three town planners for five years. She has a master of science in environmental studies from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas and a bachelor of arts in history with a minor in geology from Northeastern University.

Briggs has served as a local inspector in the Harwich building department for nearly two years. In a memo to selectmen, Chatham Town Manager Jill Goldsmith said Briggs is a Massachusetts certified inspector of buildings/building commissioner and had worked in Harwich as a local building inspector since 2015.

She stated Briggs owned and managed Briggs Home Builders in Buzzards Bay, served as a construction supervisor for Champion Builders of Pembroke and was a project manager for Epoxy Systems, Inc. a waterproofing and structural concrete repair company.

Briggs is also a NAUI and PADI certified commercial diver and worked as a marine inspector. He also worked for nine years as an engineering technician for a civil engineering firm, and attended Southeastern Massachusetts University.

“His career and duties bring us over 30 years' experience in public safety of structures and job sites, on land and under sea,” Goldsmith stated in the memo.

Clark said he will advertise the town planner's position immediately, but he will hold off on the local inspector's position to see if there is a way to adjust the salary. Clark pointed out the town of Yarmouth just hired a local inspector at $10,000 more than Harwich is paying. He said Harwich should not be a training ground for people who then leave for higher-paying positions.

“We've been an effective organization in bringing in talent, but we need to seriously consider a more broad-based review of salary compensation to make sure we retain them,” Clark said. “I think it's important to point out people came because we've created a good, professional environment to work.”

“Chatham is paying a little bit more money than we're paying and we do have to figure out a way not to lose these people,” Board of Selectman Chairman Michael MacAskill said on Monday. “But you can't argue with opportunity.”

While Sabatino starts work in Chatham on Dec. 8. She said she will be at the Harwich Planning Board meeting scheduled for Dec. 12 to assist the board with hearings.