Mary Macedo, Neighb News Correspondent
At its meeting on Monday, 4/22, the Fairhaven Board of Public Works discussed the BPW’s responsibilities, as well as the Town Administrator’s role in the way raises are given to be BPW department employees.
The board met with Town Counsel Thomas Crotty about the responsibilities of the BPW. Public Works Superintendent Vinnie Furtado told the board he asked Mr. Crotty to attend the meeting to review the responsibilities and open meeting laws because they have not been reviewed in a long time and because Frank Coelho is a new member.
Mr. Crotty explained that every BPW member is just a regular citizen and as an individual cannot make any decisions without the board.
Mr. Crotty said that Mr. Furtado supervises the department and the board should go to him with resident complaints, questions or items to include on the agenda for meetings, but the board members cannot tell Mr. Furtado what to do, unless it is by a vote
Board member Robert “Hoppy’ Hobson said that they do not want the board’s authority to be taken away, but they do not tell Mr. Furtado what to do. Mr. Hobson said they tell Mr. Furtado about issues in the town, residents’ concerns, and ask questions.
Mr. Hobson then asked Mr. Crotty what Mr. Furtado’s work relationship is with Town Administrator Mark Rees.
Mr. Crotty said that was a great question because there are a lot of laws in place that contradict each other, and it is something that should be addressed at Town Meeting.
Mr. Hobson explained that he was confused who has responsibility for which employees.
Mr. Furtado said that the BPW is in charge of the hiring and firing of the non-union BPW employees.
Mr. Hobson then asked how Town Administrator Mark Rees got the power to give those employees raises. Mr. Hobson explained that the BPW voted to give one of those employees an 8% raise and then of few months later Mr. Rees gave the same employee another 14% raise. Mr. Hobson said all the money is coming out of the sewer and water fees residents pay.
Mr. Crotty explained that the 8% raise contract was not approved by the Selectboard, but the 14% raise contract was approved by them and it needs to be approved by the Selectboard under law.
“I don’t think that Mr. Rees should be giving raises on people that he’s not in control of,” Mr. Hobson said.
Mr. Furtado said that was exactly what they will be trying to amend at Town Meeting: that the BPW be in full control over their employees and not the Selectboard or TA
Mr. Coelho asked if the wording of the bylaw amendment for Town Meeting is sufficient to get back the BPW’s full control of hiring, firing, and salaries.
Mr. Crotty explained that the Town Administrator has control of all employees expect the School Committee and the hiring and firing of BPW employees. He said the wording of the amendment does not include the BPW having control over the salaries and raises of the BPW employees.
Mr. Coelho said that he tried to bring up the issue about the board but no one wanted to listen.
Mr. Furtado explained that the BPW has never had control of the employees’ salaries. He said there was a brief time that some of the employees were under a contract where the BPW was able to set their salaries. He said that the Town Administrator no longer wants employees under contracts therefore the BPW cannot set their salary.
“I don’t disagree with you,” Chairperson Brian Wotton said. “But you’re mistaken.”
Mr. Wotton explained that the BPW was never in charge of pay rates for their employees. Mr. Wotton said he agrees with Mr. Coelho that the BPW should be in charge of their employees’ pay rates.
Board member Cameron Durant said that he also believes the BPW should set pay, but with parameters, by experience, etc.
Mr. Crotty explained that the BPW can amend the law at Town Meeting to either ask for standardized contracts with varying wages or to change the wording of the law to allow the BPW to set the pay rates.
Mr. Wotton said the residents are happy with the BPW and how the BPW tries to save the town money. Mr. Wotton said they are elected to help the people. He said the Selectboard does what they want not what the residents want.
“We are the residents’ voice, but our voice isn’t heard at the Selectboard.” Mr. Wotton said. “We just want power to do what we need to for our residents.”
The board decided that they would meet again on 4/29 to discuss the bylaw before Town Meeting on 5/4.
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