MEREDITH — After seeking to negotiate a "memorandum of understanding" for the past four years, the Board of Selectmen and Library Trustees yesterday agreed to refer their differences to their respective attorneys in hopes they can fashion a compromise.
The disparities between the personnel policies proposed by the trustees and prescribed by the town remain the outstanding bone of contention. The trustees, relying on state statutes granting them authority over the management of the library, have reserved the right to pursue personnel policies, including the hiring, discipline and firing of staff, at variance with those of the town and without the oversight of the town manager.
Town Manager Phil Warren sad yesterday that the town is the employer. "The paychecks are signed by the Town of Meredith," he declared. He explained that the town attorney has advised him that should litigation arise involving a member of the library, there is a risk the town could find itself "on the hook." He said the attorney did not say that the town could not accede and grant the trustees authority over library personnel, but did say there was a risk in doing so. "He told me there is a risk. Beware." Warren said.
Selectman Lou Kahn, a retired attorney, noted that every lawyer can always find risks to warn clients against, but cannot always tell them how they be avoided. He suggested the selectmen agree "this is a risk we're to take."
"This is becoming ridiculous," interjected Selectman Carla Horne, who chairs the Selectboard.
Rhetta Colon, who chairs the trustees, said that she she has been wrestling with the issue throughout her tenure and simply wants to reach agreement on the memorandum of understanding. She suggested referring the draft memorandum, together with the personnel policies of the town and library, to the two attorneys with a request that they resolve the outstanding issues.
NOTE: Town Manager Phil Warren said that the town has agreed to remove two fuel storage tanks at the Department of Public Works yard by the end of the year at the direction of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES). Although the town is planning to construct a new public works facility on the site, Warren said that in the interim between removing the tanks and building the facility the DPW will be without fuel storage. He said that the life of the tanks could be extended by replacing the piping, but that would cost $75,000 and the town would bear the cost of their ultimate removal. Meanwhile, the DES will contribute $25,000 to removing them along any contaminated soil. Warren said that Mike Faller, director of public works, has begun exploring arrangements with local fuel vendors to supply the DPW in the interim.
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