MANCHESTER — The middle of a harsh recession hardly seems the right time to advocate abolishing your job.
But to the town's part-time projects administrator, now is the perfect time to volunteer for unemployment.
Since January, David Warner, who a year ago was a $500-a-year councilman, has been Manchester's official jack-of-all-trades, a sort ofhigh-profile goffer with an ever-growing list of responsibilities. In fact, that list has grown so much in recent months that Warner's 24-hour-a-week assignment is looking more and more like the recipe for a full-time town manager.
And that's why earlier this month Warner, 52, told the Town Council to consider creating a town manager's post before fiscal year 1993's budget goes into effect July 1.
"I thought it would be a good idea to be gainfully unemployed," Warner saidjokingly. "I must admit that it is strange to be in the position to write myself out of a job."
Warner, who will earn about $25,000 for a year's worth of part-time work, has all along been saying his position as town administrator is a temporary assignment.
And with the expected retirement of Kathryn Riley -- the town's longtime clerk and treasurer -- in July, the everyday operations of the town are becoming too burdensome for a part-time employee, Warner said.
"My work is getting more complex, more comprehensive and more time-consuming," Warner said. "The town is beginning to need full-time management."
Full-time management for Manchester became an issue when former mayor and current county commissioner Elmer C. Lippy left office a little more than a year ago.
Lippy, 71, routinely put in up to 40 hours a week in the $1,200-a-year mayor's job, steering a $10 million sewage treatment plant upgrade through its early stages, managing the town's dozen or so employees, answering citizen questions and working out neighborhood disputes.
When he left, the council, under current Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr., decided to hire Warner as a part-time consultant to work out kinks in town building, zoning and personnel policies.
The job, however, became more like a manager's, Warner said.
"This is the kind of work that needs to be done by a manager," he said. "I don't even have the legal authority to do some of the things that need to be done on a daily basis."
One of the possible roadblocks to hiring a manager, however, could be money. Warner is costing the town $25,000 a year. A professional town manager -- on the order of Taneytown's Neal W. Powell or Hampstead's John A. Riley -- would cost more than $50,000 in salary and benefits, Warner said.
The town's operating budget is about $830,000. Town officials do not expect that amount to increase by much for the budget year beginning July 1.
When Warner publicly recommended the position duringa council meeting earlier this month, most council members seemed toagree.
It's not as though the suggestion took any of them by surprise.
Riley -- the Hampstead manager also is a Manchester councilman -- has been advocating the hiring of a full-time town administrator for several years. "I don't see how they can get anything done up there the way they do it now," Riley said in an interview last year before becoming a councilman.
Councilman Geoffrey S. Black in recent months also has been saying the town would strongly consider hiring a manager.
At the same time Warner is recommending a manager, he maintains he would not seek such a position, saying becoming employed full-time after his retirement from a longtime career with the schoolsystem could jeopardize his pension.
A manager is not the only administrative position on the table, Warner said. He indicated that the town is looking at the costs of creating a full-time mayor's post, where an elected mayor would be paid a salary and would run the town,much as it is done in cities such as Baltimore.