WELD — Voters at Town Meeting Saturday changed the road commissioner position from elected to appointed. They also amended budget articles to add $7,516 for additional health insurance coverage.
Overall, residents approved a 2022-23 municipal budget of $640,518, which is $20,556 or 3.11% less than last year’s $661,074 budget.
Speaking about the difficulty in filling the road commissioner’s position, resident Michael Graham said the position definitely needs to be appointed to get someone. In the past, he added, certain road commissioners went off on their own, couldn’t be reined in, and didn’t consider the Select Board their boss.
During the voice count, only a few voters opposed the change from elected to appointed.
Earlier, while considering rates of pay for employees, resident Larry Fish suggested that articles regarding the road commissioner and possibly providing health insurance for that position should be decided first. With no support, debate on pay continued.
Increasing hourly wages by $1 per hour was proposed for many town employees. For road commissioner, it was recommended to offer a salary “up to $22 per hour,” which would be a $3 increase.
“The Budget Committee felt it was reasonable to increase wages across the board, (we) could do that without impacting the mill rate,” Select Board Chair Richard Doughty said.
Voters ultimately agreed all town salaries should be increased about 5% with the exception of the road commissioner. For that position, voters approved offering up to $22 per hour. The town currently does not have a permanent road commissioner.
Doughty said the person who stepped forward this year expressing interest in the position asked for an increase next year, but later decided against the position. The town has had difficulty filling the position and may not be paying enough, he said.
“If we don’t find a fully qualified person we could offer less (until) they become fully qualified,” Doughty stated. Increasing wages and offering health insurance might make it better for people to consider the position, he added.
The board struggled with the salary and benefits issue, Selectperson Dina Walker said. While it may seem unfair to other employees, the town would be in dire straits if it couldn’t find a road commissioner. The town needs a road commissioner, she noted.
“You’re not going to pull someone from out of town to fill this position,” resident Christopher Smith said. “When you have to wake up at 1 a.m. to plow roads, the requirement to have a commercial driver’s license — $22 per hour is not enough.”
“I personally don’t think $22 is enough. It’s a step in the right direction,” Selectperson Brian Haynes said. Supervisors for the Maine Department of Transportation make quite a bit more than $22 per hour, he noted.
Voters decided to allow the Selectboard to offer a health insurance package to the road commissioner.
Under general government, $1,000 was added to provide 100% coverage of health insurance for Town Clerk Carol Cochran. It had been covered at 50%. For public works, $6,516 was added to offer 50% coverage for the road commissioner.