Derry begins search for new board member, road foreman

Fred Gabert, left, and Chad Stoddard. All photos by Bruce Frauman

By Bruce Frauman
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Londonderry Select Board, at a special meeting on Wednesday, March 15 accepted the resignations of  Select Board member Will Reed and Road Foreman Duane Hart, both of whom had tendered their resignations following Town Meeting the week before.

The board also made Paul Gordon its chair and newly elected board member Jim Ameden its vice chair. Ameden previously had served on the board as chair. And the board signed a second year-long contract with the State Police, moved forward with the salt and sand shed, and discussed what to do with a property the town does not want, as well as other issues.

But before the resignations were accepted, it was Duane Hart and his pending resignation that caused the greatest drama during the meeting. During public comment, Chad Stoddard told the board he had “witnessed” Hart “operating a piece of his private machinery removing snow” in Weston that morning in spite of the fact that he filed a Worker’s Compensation claim with the town’s insurance and received a doctor’s note. That was the reason Hart gave for not being able to plow for the town after Tuesday’s snowstorm, Stoddard said.

New Select Board chair Paul Gordon.

Gordon said he was told of the situation late that morning, and that the doctor’s note refers to “desk duty” only. He added that he consulted with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which is the town’s insurer, and that since it is a personnel matter, it was to be discussed in executive session.

Gordon also read a letter from Hart dated March 7 and submitted after Town Meeting. “It is with deep regret that I submit my two weeks resignation notice. My last official day will be Tuesday March 21st. I will make myself available as needed anytime after that date to help the town on Londonderry with any necessary transition. There are significant VOSHA violations that exist in the town of Londonderry that no longer allow me to work in that environment. The town was first made aware of these violations through the Project Work Safe visit in February of 2015 and again in March 2017 by Wade Masure, the Senior Loss Control Consultant from VLCT.”

Calls to both Gordon and Masure concerning the VOSHA violations claim were not returned by publication time.

Then at 5:20 p.m., shortly before the Select Board met, Hart sent the board an email, which Gordon read aloud: “After careful consideration, I would like to make my resignation effective immediately as of 5:15 on March 15, 2017.” With no further discussion, the board accepted both Hart resignations unanimously, making Hart’s resignation immediate. (Click here for Londonderry Select Board’s agenda for tonight’s meeting.)

Job descriptions in works

New board members George Mora, left, and Tom Cavanaugh.

The board then began by circulating a draft job description for road foreman.  Mora suggested that the new road foreman be asked o attend Windham Regional Commission trainings. Ameden warned against adding too many tasks and suggesting framing the duties as “guidelines” rather than “requirements” to give the foreman more flexibility. Ameden also suggested that the volunteer position of road commissioner may be able to take on some of the duties that fell to the road foreman. The board later made Ameden the new road commissioner. Gordon told the board that it will hammer out a job description at the March 20 meeting.

Gordon stated that it “was the board’s position, and is my position at this point, that there are a number of things that have fallen through the cracks that potentially could be taken care of by a person in a supervisory position. … when things need to be done they fall to (Hart).” Examples are “issues at the transfer station, changing light bulbs, and working on paper work.” One insurance-required duty that elicited a lot of discussion is to offer road crew and transfer station employees a safety talk once a month or so, called “tailgate talks,” which Hart would do with both groups in one meeting.

Ameden said, “We need to be sure the supervisor of each department is doing their job.”

The board accepted “with regret and our thanks for your service” Will Reed’s resignation from the board. After Gordon read Reed’s letter of resignation, Mora told the board she “understood going into this that this would create an awkward situation between Will and myself. I had no idea that his feelings were still so strong and I really hoped we could both serve on the board for the purpose of doing good for the town. I am very sorry the way this has played out and I am sorry to see him go.” Gordon added that he and several others had spoken with Reed to try to persuade him to stay, but ”he just doesn’t feel that is possible.”

Jaimie Rawson discusses the salt and sand shed.

The board will post notices for both vacancies on the town website and other venues with applicants’ resumes and letters of interest due by March 31. Both positions could be filled as early as April 3, with the board choosing to appoint a replacement for the final year of Reeds two-year term.

Mora resigned from the Development Review Board but will remain co-commissioner to the Windham Regional Commission.

Next steps toward new salt shed

All four board members agreed that the next step in the construction of a new salt/sand shed is to hire a structural engineer to provide a stamp of approval for the state before the actual construction jobs are put out to bid. Gordon asked for help in writing a Request for Proposals for engineering.

Ameden said the drawings from rk Miles were adequate to present to a structural engineer for approval and does not  like  the need for an RFP. But Gordon said more details are necessary to determine specifics such as the height of the concrete walls, which affect the height of the rafters, the type of trusses, the size of the load bearing wood, the thickness of the plywood and gauge of the metal siding and roof.

Select Board members examine plans for the salt and sand shed.

Gordon asked, “Do we want to spend that money for some increase in size? Do we want in the proposal for engineering to have a couple of choices so that we can go to a concrete person and say ‘Give us a price for A. Give us a price for B.’?” Visitor Jaimie Rawson suggested that RFPs help the board avoid conflict of interest charges. Town Administrator Stephanie Thompson will work with Gordon to prepare a RFP for the March 20 meeting.

Town takes Frog’s Leap Inn

Gordon told the board that the town also became the owner of the Frog’s Leap Inn, with the intention of selling the property as soon as possible to redeem the approximately $250,000 in back taxes owed. One complicating factor is that the previous owner made a verbal agreement with a tenant to live in one of the buildings in return for handyman services. Gordon said “We have options to auction or sell without a tenant or sell it as is with a tenant.”

Also, the town has surpluses of more than $45,000 in the Highway Department budget and more than a $200,000 in the General Fund, in large part due to “increased revenue of delinquent taxes last year,” Gordon said. These numbers come from a worksheet provided by Treasurer Tina Labeau after the completion of an independent audit. A $0.06 reduction in the tax rate is to be expected in July when the board sets the tax rate for 2018, dropping from $0.34 to $0.28. Gordon noted that the school tax rate will be expected to decrease as well.

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