The most contentious issue was the proposed change from a guaranteed 45-hour work week for the road crew. The proposal has sparked much controversy. Although the change has been controversial, the highway crew and selectboard both say they want to fix the wage and hours policy that requires the crew to work extra hours in order to make something approaching average pay. The selectboard would also like to get a firmer grasp on just how many man-hours are needed to accomplish an average year’s work on the roads. This would allow more realistic budgeting. Road crew pay has run consistently over budget for some years.
The devil, as always, is in the details, and the details are largely missing, making clear communication difficult.
Crew mechanic Keith Stone told the board that he wants to see a proposal laid out “on paper, so we can hold you to that.”
But so far, there is no single proposal backed by a unified board. Each member has offered his or her own approach. Hoping for a cooperative and inclusive process that will result in a consensus between crew and board, the selectboard has tried to bring the crew into the discussions needed to finalize a proposal. Crew members and their families, however, have found the process frustrating and confusing; a number of sharp comments left the impression that they feel left out of the process.
The board agreed that they will need to bring their written proposals to a meeting and work out a final proposal together. They plan to do this well before the budgeting process for the next fiscal year. Stone also agreed to work with Edwards on the issue. Beyond that, the only consensus reached on the question of work hours was that, as Edee Edwards put it, “We can’t do this” in the current fiscal year.
Despite the dissension over hours, the board quickly reached agreement on a raise for the coming year that did satisfy the crew. It is a two-tiered raise, retroactive to August 5, 2012. The two lowest paid members of the crew will each get a 50¢ per hour raise. On top of that, the entire crew will receive a 2.5% raise.
In other business, the board opened three bids for removal of flood debris from four sites along Green River and Hale roads. The town was required by the USDA, which issues the grant, to divide the work by site, and that division was reflected in the request for quotes. This led Edwards to ask whether the board can award the contract for each site separately. Bids from the three firms varied a great deal, with one firm submitting the low bid for sites one and four, another for site two, and the third for site three.
Jesse Boyd, of Bartlett and Boyd, told the board that his bid was based on the premise that he would be doing all or most of the sites and would not find it worthwhile to do only one. Boyd also said that Drew Addam of the USDA had stated at the site visit that the job would include all the sites unless easements from the various property owners were not obtainable. Earl Holtz confirmed Boyd’s recollection. Edwards wanted a clarification from Addam. Ultimately, the board voted to award the contract on a site by site basis pending approval from Addam; otherwise, the contract will go to the lowest bidder overall, Pat Rawson Construction.
The board also met with a representative from Holden Engineering, the firm providing the design for the bridge on Old County North Road. The lengthy discussion was mostly technical, involving details of steel strength, painting versus galvanizing or weathering steel, construction methods and materials of timber bridges, load capacities of various options, etc., with price estimates and maintenance requirements for various options. The board gave Holden several questions to be answered before a final decision can be made.