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Fredonia eyes adding DPW position

Trustee James Lynden voiced concern on a new hire for the Department of Public Works.

The Fredonia Board of Trustees appears set to add a full-time employee at the Department of Public Works, over the objections of Mayor Douglas Essek and Trustee James Lynden.

“Scott (Marsh, DPW director) said that with some of the projects that used to be done with the DPW, that an additional staff would help add to the ability to do those again,” said Trustee EvaDawn Bashaw at a trustees’ workshop this week. “We have often gone out for some of the projects that we used to do in-house.”

Bashaw said trustees found some good candidates when they interviewed for a vacant laborer position at the DPW a week before. She said Treasurer Erlyssa LeBeau and Marsh were asked to crunch some numbers to see if a full-time position could be funded, if it replaced a part-time slot. They said that it could.

“Can I ask why this can’t wait until budget time?” said Essek. Bashaw and Trustee Roger Britz cited the upcoming snow season and a desire to avoid overtime, the fact that funding is available and the quality of the candidates.

Essek noted that full-timers have escalating salaries and benefits while part-timers don’t. “Doing this mid year kind of gives me some concern,” Essek said, and Lynden immediately agreed.

“We’ve interviewed some good candidates, there’s a couple of good ones out there. We advertised for part-time positions and we get nobody. There’s nobody interested in working (part-time), really,” Marsh said.

However, one candidate in particular, who stood out to him, was willing to work full-time. Marsh said he wanted to hire him while he was available. No one named this candidate at Monday’s meeting.

LeBeau said the full timer would make $15,000 more than the part timer, but the money is already in the DPW budget.

Lynden said the DPW was supposed to use that money for other things, and if they didn’t, it should be saved to deal with any added year-end costs. “If it’s $15,000 here, $15,000 there, I want to save it, because otherwise you’re going to hit the end of the year and you’re going to be in trouble, and I’ve been saying this right along,” he said.

“There’s an opportunity to possibly interview again a couple of these candidates that would really fit in well with our department,” Britz said. “They have the qualifications, and it’s rare. We just want to be able to throw it out there and maybe do some creative financing to find a way to get that extra help in there that’s qualified, that would fit in well with our department.”

Essek reiterated that after things such as cost of living increases and raises are factored in, it would wind up costing more than $15,000. He said, “I realize the board controls the finances, but the public’s gotta pay the bill at the end of the day — when you have a big deficit, now what do you do? You lay the people off if you can’t afford them next year, or the year after? I don’t know. Our budgets aren’t getting any better, they’re getting tighter and tighter.”

“We’ve spent quite a bit of time the last few months talking about how important it us for us to listen to our department heads, because they’re the experts in their departments,” Trustee Scott Johnston said. “I think if our department head says he needs a guy, and he’s got a guy, I would support that.”

A bit later in the debate, Essek commented, “If all this money’s there, then I’m not sure why this board has slashed the budget the way it did then.”

“We’re not talking a lot of money… we’re trying to work together as a team here,” Britz said.

“I think questioning is part of a team,” Essek responded. “I want to be working as a team. Questioning something does not mean I’m not a team player.”

Bashaw and Britz said they would get together a resolution for an upcoming meeting to add the new position. “If we can save dollars by not brokering out other work and Scott thinks we can tighten up our belt a little bit, keep some stuff in house… there’s an opportunity,” Britz said.

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