ROWLEY — After 10 years of fulfilling the duties of Shellfish Constable for a meager $210 a year salary, Jack Grundstrom wouldn't have considered asking for a raise. But rather than let his father resign from the position no one else seems to want, Grundstrom's son John Grundstrom and fellow Shellfish Commissioner Chuck Hazen implored selectmen this week to consider raising the constable salary in hopes Jack Grundstrom might elect to stay.
"He basically can't do it anymore," John Grundstrom said, telling selectmen his father spends more than the $210 per year salary on paper used to carry out his duties.
Grundstrom said the real reason for his father's retirement, announced several months ago with no mention of the low yearly compensation, comes down to the negative cash flow he's taken on as a result of the negligible pay.
"He's going backwards," Grundstrom said.
A shellfish commissioner himself, Grundstrom is the sole applicant to express interest in taking over the constable duties upon his father's retirement. But he indicated he'd happily withdraw his application if his father were to change his mind.
"He takes a lot of pride in what he does," Grundstrom said. "I think we're losing the most important person in the shellfish department."
Grundstrom explained it was his father who began initiating the regular flats closings that have caused area clam beds to flourish and who is responsible for lobbying the state on rain closure rules that affect all clammers in the area. He gets up at 5 a.m. to post closure notifications and monitors the flats to ensure active clammers are residents of Rowley properly licensed to harvest in the area.
"The constable is a very important job in the shellfish industry," Grundstrom said. "The second the constable leaves, the state will come out and shut the industry down."
Essex and Ipswich Shellfish Constables earns upward of $35,000 and $55,000 per year respectively, which represents an unfair disparity, selectmen Chairman David Petersen said.
"It's actually a disgrace, in terms of what he's required to do," Petersen said. "We've all overlooked it, and we've always accepted it. I hate to see him go, and it's a situation that we need to rectify."
Selectman Stuart Dalzell agreed, suggesting at the very least Jack Grundstrom should be compensated for expenses incurred in fulfillment of his duties.
"We all agree it's an insult, what he's getting paid," Dalzell said. "It would be nice to get him up around the electric inspector's (salary)."
Given the tough budget constraints facing Rowley this year, Petersen said any compensation changes would have to be considered by the Personnel Board and ultimately taken up by fall Town Meeting. But Selectmen all agreed funding could immediately be utilized from the Shellfish Department's revolving fund to cover Grundstrom's costs until that time. It was agreed selectmen would offer Grundstrom $17 per hour to fulfill his duties should he agree to stay, with a cap of $2,000 until a more definitive solution can be reached.
"We can always go further," Petersen said. "That'll get us started, and we'll go from there."