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Clarksburg Officials Closing in on New Compensation Plan
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
02:34AM / Friday, January 15, 2016
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Select Board members on Wednesday came to a consensus on a new compensation and classification plan for employees but held off on a formal vote until a "clean" draft of the changes was in front them.

Officials have been trying to straighten out a salary system that had new workers waiting more than a year for a first raise, steps that were not followed, confusing classifications and wages that were far below surrounding towns.

Town Administrator Carl McKinney put initial costs — prior to some changes made during the meeting — at about $12,000 more next year.

"We went through the municipal wage survey, and even with these changes, we're going to be below most municipalities," he said.

The new compensation system reduces the number of entry steps; adds on a 30-year step as a reward for longevity; sets July 1 as the year anniversary date for employees hired between July 2 and Dec. 31; and removes the town administrator and police chief.

Once the plan is approved, employees will get a 2 percent cost of living raise on July 1; they went without a raise this year as the board struggled with revamping the compensation plan.

After reviewing the plan, Select Board member William Schrade Jr. recommended removing the accountant, assessor and the police officers, which are all part time. The accountant and assessor are set amounts not hourly, he said, "putting them on a pay scale really doesn't make sense."

He also thought officers who work only eight to 10 hours should get a set hourly rate with cost of living raises rather than steps.

"I think we should put people who get benefits on the salary schedule," Schrade said.

After some discussion, the board seemed to agree that officers should start at $15 an hour and the sergeant at $18. Those figures with the 2 percent COLA puts them above what they would be making on the step system.

The board also wants to consolidate the tax treasurer and tax collector posts. Both positions are currently being filled by one person who is being paid out of two different line items. Failing to find a clear way to set the pay, the board decided to revisit that issue at its next meeting along with the contract for the police chief.

Officials are also looking to merge the assessor's clerk position with the administrative assistant post; the assistant has done the job off and on in the past depending on the assessor's wishes. The board determined the duties and responsibilities of the clerk should be more clearly tied to the town office, not the assessor.

In other business, the board voted to appoint Administrative Assistant Debra Choquette as the assistant town accountant.

The town is looking for a town accountant again with the departure of David Fierro. While the job has been posted, someone still needs to do the warrants and payroll, McKinney said.  

"We appoint Debbie as the assistant accountant to process the warrants until we get another accountant," he suggested.

The board initially was going to appoint her as an interim but it was decided to make the appointment permanent so there would be a back up person in Town Hall.

McKinney also reported that the Gates Avenue bridge project should start soon. The job is expected to be completed in a 72-hour period. While there are some savings now the town does not have to put in an open-bottom culvert, he told two Gates Avenue residents that there is no money to repair the rough road.

"We don't have a lot of cash ... I promise we won't forget about you after this is done, I can say we can patch but I'm not going to promise you a new road. I can't do that," he said.

"We've got three roads that are in that bad if not worse condition and those are connectors and they have to be a priority."

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