By Larry Barszewski

Manalapan town employees could see a pay boost soon as commissioners seek to be more competitive attracting new police hires and to stanch the flow of town workers leaving for better paying jobs elsewhere.
Town Manager Linda Stumpf said the town hasn’t kept up with the recent salary increases in the area.
“When we did the last adjustment to the salaries, we felt we were really bringing us right up to the mid-high range,” Stumpf told commissioners at their Jan. 25 meeting. “But in three years, with what’s going on, we dropped right down to the bottom again.”
Stumpf said the Police Department is having a hard time filling two vacant police positions, with the town’s $51,200 starting officer salary lower than in any other Palm Beach County municipality except Lake Clarke Shores.
“The last person that resigned took a job, basically, she got a $6,000 raise I think and just went across the bridge” to Lantana, Police Chief Carmen Mattox told commissioners. The officer was already familiar with working with police there and knew everybody on Lantana’s staff, he said.
“It’s kind of like they’re recruiting while they’re on duty,” Mattox said.
Stumpf suggested commissioners consider raising the base police salary from $51,200 to $55,000, while giving all town employees a 2% pay boost. Those changes would cost the town about $59,550 annually, she said. Commissioners asked her to put together a proposal for them to consider at their Feb. 22 meeting.
If those suggestions are accepted, Stumpf said the town may need to go further in the fall, shelving its typical salary increase of 3% and going as high as 5% to keep the town competitive.
“We are now second lowest in the area for certain staffers. Other cities have been bumping up their salaries to police officers and staff, trying to keep up with inflation,” Stumpf said.
One commissioner said the town might want to do more than Stump suggested.
“I really think that it should be looked at in seeing what it’s going to take to really do the right thing, rather than just putting a small Band-Aid on it,” Commissioner John Deese said. “I think we’ve got to look at it and maybe we need to do something even much greater than what you’re proposing.”
Commissioners noted that Lantana took similar action, awarding employees bonuses of up to $2,000 in December and boosting pay 1.5%.
In other matters at the Jan. 25 meeting:
• Commissioners had no objection to Stumpf’s awarding retiring Town Clerk Lisa Petersen a $10,000 bonus for her 18 years of service. Stumpf said the town traditionally awards bonuses to retiring employees who have at least 15 years of service with the town — $10,000 for management and $5,000 for other staff.
Because of coronavirus concerns, Petersen’s retirement party was rescheduled for Feb. 24 in conjunction with the town’s season-opening party.
• Stumpf told commissioners Town Hall has had major roof leaks again in the Police Department section, causing portions of the ceiling to collapse and damaging drywall. The building’s backup generator also broke down. Repairs on both were expected to be completed by the first week in February, although Stumpf said the generator is at the end of its useful life and probably needs to be replaced.
• Commissioners approved changes to the town’s ordinance regarding home businesses, setting up new regulations that align with state laws enacted last year.
• Commissioners said they’re interested in standardizing additional building permit fees for property owners who apply for and receive permit extensions because they didn’t get the work finished before their original permits expired.
Commissioners last year granted six-month extensions to all building permits due to construction delays caused by the pandemic. While commissioners usually charge a fee for owner-requested permit extensions, they now want to set up a standardized system for how those fees are assessed.
Mayor Keith Waters suggested the town should charge for an extension based on the original permit cost. So, if a two-year permit cost $200,000 in fees and the property owner seeks a six-month extension, that would amount to a quarter of the original permit and so would cost an additional $50,000 — a quarter of the original permit fee.
The discussion came about because of a permit extension requested by Frank and Dolores Mennella for work being done at their home at 1940 S. Ocean Blvd. They had already used up the six-month pandemic extension and were seeking additional time to June 1.
Commissioners agreed to the extension but didn’t assess an extra fee, which Stumpf said was the first time they had not charged any fee for an owner-requested extension. Instead, commissioners asked her to bring back a policy covering future requests at their February meeting.

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