BELMONT — With the retirement of one of the town's senior-most truck operators and the promotion of another, selectmen found themselves at odds at their meeting May 18 over whether or not Belmont should replace the empty position. By consensus, the board eventually agreed to post the vacancy and will be hiring a replacement.
Selectman Chair Ruth Mooney suggested that the Public Works Department could at least temporarily go without filling the position or possible look to sub-contract the work during the winter because this time of year is a "slow".
"At the election, the budget passed but by not a lot," Mooney noted. She added that many of the people who came to the recent discussion about the Belmont Mill complained that their property taxes were too high.
Director Jim Fortin said the winter was the slowest time of year for public works crews. Spring, summer, and fall are when the department must do the town's gravel roads, the roadside ditching, repair any winter damage, and mow the grass.
He explained that there are only 31 weeks of the year that members of the Public Works Department can take vacations and because he has had little to no appreciable turnover in the department in a number of years — all of those vacation days must be taken during the spring, summer, and fall. This leaves him with about 1.5 people out per week.
"We have 43 vacation weeks to take in 31 weeks." said Fortin.
He said the Public Works Department is already doing more with less. "I just want us to be left alone and keep carrying on," he said.
Jon Pike told Mooney she was missing the point, which is that 75 percent of the total money raised by local taxes goes to the school district and this past year, when the motions came at the Shaker School District annual meeting to add full-day kindergarten and a science teacher there "was nobody there to stop it".
"Yeah, they worry about taxes, but we have a great road maintenance crews," said Pike.
Pike noted that Fortin wasn't asking for any more people just the same staff levels he's traditionally had.
Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin noted that if they do fill the position— the town will save about $6,000 this year alone because of a difference in seniority-driven pay grade.
Mooney stuck to her guns and said that she fears increasing budgets because while they have historically passed, the margin is small.
"This is a dangerous path you're going down," said Ron Cormier. "I see it at the state level all of the time."
"We'll decimate the department," he continued. "Don't emulate the state budgetary process — it's horrible."
The state often uses attrition a part of its budget balancing process and, according to Cormier, it means many state employees are doing the jobs of two. He noted it's a drag on moral as well.
Pike added that townspeople want the streets and roads looking as good as possible and to be passable.
In other business, selectmen reviewed a long-term water district planning and maintenance scheduled prepared for them by a outside company.
One of the top recommendation made, was to get either well 1 or well 2 operating so the town can have a backup source of water if needed. The chemical treatment cistern should also be a project that the water district should evaluate sooner than later.
All in all, selectmen were told the system looks good.
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 167