BOS: New chair; exploring layoff resolution; potential Special Town Meeting

The newly expanded Board of Selectmen convened last night. They addressed plans for moving forward and public concerns over a recent employee layoff.

Their first order of business was appointing a new chair. With a 3-2 vote, the Chair was passed from Dan Kolenda to Bill Boland. (John Rooney, who served as chair the year before last, opted to support Kolenda’s nomination of Boland rather than vote for himself.) Rooney was unanimously voted to Vice Chair.

Some communication improvements were agreed upon:

  • Under Rooney’s suggestion, discussions between selectmen and others will be quickly followed by a memo to board members.  (Examples given were a 20 minute phone call with Town Administrator Mark Purple or sitting down with a Department Head.)
  • And Purple agreed to Phaneuf’s request that he update selectmen in regular documents on any major town projects.

The big agenda item of the meeting was the recently announced layoff of the Cemetery Supervisor.

Purple maintained that before Town Meeting the town believed that the position could potentially be saved by a planned retirement. It was only after Town Meeting that they learned the retirement wouldn’t take place.

Rooney countered that the chronology didn’t make sense. He pointed to a letter emailed by DPW to their Union the day before Town Meeting to inform them a layoff would take place (not might take place):

I have problems with the history. I have problems with the process. I have problems with the entire way this was handled. . . I’m not going to say ‘OK, let’s go on to the next issue.'”

Galligan’s only explanation was that notice had been given because she didn’t know if voters would fully fund the budget or who might need to be laid off.

As for resolving the issue, she responded that she worked with the union to find a way to bridge the gap between the layoff date and the potential call back date:

The employee’s been told that there’s a different position that they can have and that will be there until the actual retirement happens or somebody leaves.

The position offered would be at the Transfer Station, and include “right of first refusal” for any work interacting with people at the cemetery. They are now waiting for her response.

For some residents, that solution wasn’t good enough. Leading the charge to fully reinstate the Cemetery Supervisor was Desiree Aselbekian. She informed the board that she has enough signatures on her citizen’s petition to compel a Special Town Meeting on the issue. 

Not one person. . . discussed with the public that there was a reorganization effort at the DPW that would essentially eliminate the high level of services that we have at the cemetery. . .

And this is bigger than just one person, folks. This is how our town government is working for us, and let me tell you, it’s not working.

The next scheduled meeting is June 3rd. Aselbekian stated that if the Board didn’t take appropriate actions by then, she would file the petition.

Former Town Moderator, John Wilson told the board that 30 years ago, he was the one to suggest expedite budgets at town meeting by only discussing budgets that are held. He said the point wasn’t to gloss over items of importance. When the board knows there is an issue that the public should know about, it is their duty to hold it.

Phaneuf questioned why the Public Works Planning Board hasn’t met since 2012 and never discussed this. She also asked to find out what it would cost to keep the position as is, not outsourcing maintenance.

Rooney asked to see what it would cost to keep the employee as supervisor of the outsourced maintenance.

Nothing was specifically resolved last night. So you can expect to see this on the agenda again, June 3rd.

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