LACONIA — The familiar fault line which has dominated the meetings of the Belknap County Commissioners for the last two months were plainly in evidence again Wednesday morning as Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), whose ouster as chairman of the commission in early March was upheld yesterday in Belknap County Superior Court, continued to differ with his colleagues.
The commission voted to hire an accounting manager to supervise the Finance Department and to seek approval from the Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee to use $100,000 from a personnel management reserve fund in the 2015 county budget to fund the position.
The decision comes in the wake of the county's assistant finance director Marie Mora submitting her resignation, which followed shortly on the heels of the resignation last month of Finance Director Glen Waring to take a position with a school district in southern New Hampshire.
''It's an an unfortunate situation. This should never have happened,'' said Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton)'', who added that the county must move quickly to fill the position.
Commissioner Burchell disagreed, saying that he thought it would be ''an opportunity to go to the private sector'', a suggestion which Taylor rejected, saying ''we have a problem we need to address and address right now.''
Taylor said ''nobody uses privatization at the county level'' and said that Burchell's call for privatization would result in a lot of duplication of effort as any private firm would have to br fully knowledgeable about county budget procedures, which would require an inordinate amount of staff effort on the county's part.
Burchell had earlier this year, following Waring's resignation, suggested that he had confidence in Mora being able to take on many of Waring's responsibilities. But Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that Burchell had already outlined a plan of his own to reorganize the county and that people were concerned about losing their jobs and what he was reporting they had said should be taken with a grain of salt.
Another discussion of a vacancy also pitted Burchell against his colleagues as he championed an effort by Belknap County Nursing Administrator Mathew Logue to fill a position which Logue said had been vacant for a year.
The person that Logue wants to replace is currently on leave but was recently reinstated to her position following resolution of a court case. Burchell questioned Logue about the impact the reinstated person would have on the county home and Logue's response led to a discussion as to whether the commission should be discussing the matter in public.
DeVoy objected to the direction that the conversation was taking, saying to Burchell, ''you have crossed the line. This person is on Workmen's Compensation,'' which led to a move by Burchell to discuss the situation in a non-public session. County Administrator Debra Shackett told the commissioners that if they were to discuss an employee in private that person would have the right to be present and have a representative present as well.
Burchell said ''we're not discussing terminating her'' and suggested the employee would not have to be present.
But he received no support from the other commissioners for a non-public session.
DeVoy said that the position has not been filled in a year and that the employee was on leave for six more weeks, which mean there was no urgency.
''We won't hire another person,'' he said, which prompted Burchell to say, ''then the problem is not solved,''
Burchell also differed with his colleagues on the status of a new labor union composed of 20 mid-level mangers at the county, which was last year certified as bargaining unit by the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board.
He suggested that the commissioners hire a lawyer with a background in labor relations as a first step towards a possible decertification of the union, which he said was ''cobbled together'' and lacked a commonality of interest.
Last week the convention unanimously rejected a three-year contract with the new union, The deal with Teamsters Local Union 633 had been approved by the previous county commissioners as one of their last acts in office in late December.
Burchell's point of view was opposed by Commissioner Taylor, who pointed out that ''the burden is on the employer to overturn certification,'' indicating it could be a long, costly process.
He said that there was no crisis at the current time which required such action and said that he would rather negotiate a new agreement with the union than mount a legal challenge to its existence.
In other action the commissioners received proposals for health insurance from two providers, Health Trust and New Hampshire Interlocal Trust; approved a request for proposals from architectural firms for design of a community corrections facility and received a written proposal for changes in rule making authority for the county.
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