GROTON -- After months of sometimes contentious discussion, the Board of Selectmen voted to appoint members to a newly constituted Personnel Board.
The reformation of the board had been in the discussion phase for some months but received fresh impetus when a group of bylaw employees, the only town employees not covered under collective bargaining, decided to form their own union.
Those employees included town planner Michelle Collette, DPW director Tom Delaney and Assessor Rena Swezey. They made their decision when it seemed that selectmen were not going to reform the defunct Personnel Board, a lack of movement they felt would leave them vulnerable and unprotected.
The whole question of whether to revive the Personnel Board began earlier in the year when Selectman Jack Petropoulos insisted that a vote at town meeting specifically intended that the Personnel Board be continued even though the new town Charter did not provide for it.
At the time, however, his colleagues had voted to discontinue the Personnel Board, setting up a conflict between the Charter and the bylaw that was upheld by residents.
As a result, the Personnel Board was still on the books covered by a still existing bylaw that was, nevertheless, ignored by selectmen who neither appointed members to it nor advertised its continued existence.
It was Petropoulos' contention that the town needed the board to handle such issues as resignations and employee complaints, particularly for those employees without the backing of a union. He continued to press the issue.
Finally, at the board's meeting of June 10, selectmen settled the simmering matter by conducting interviews of candidates wishing to be appointed to a reconstituted Personnel Board.
When the voting was over, Dolores Alberghini, Mary Jennings and Bud Robinson were chosen to serve for one-, two- and three-year terms, respectively.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Peter Cunningham, in congratulating the new members, noted that the Personnel Board's primary role is to be an advisory one to the town's director of human resources.
Still awaiting word from the state's Department of Labor for approval of their bid to unionize, the question of whether the bylaw employees will go through with the action now that a Personnel Board has been reconstituted, is still up in the air.
In other business
Selectmen voted to approve a one-year license agreement with Atlantic East LLC, owners of an empty lot on Station Avenue immediately adjacent to Town Hall, for use as extra parking.
With news that the owner had not been interested in selling the property outright to the town, the arrangement was approved.
According to the deal, the town would pay Atlantic East $1 to lease the property for one year while the owner continues to pay property taxes of $2,863 a year.
In return, the town would pay for labor and material needed to improve the partially wooded parcel as a parking lot with at least 15 spaces.
At the June 10 meeting, selectmen also:
* Voted to approve an assistant treasurer/collector in-training program for whoever will replace retiring Joan Talent. According to Haddad, a similar training program used for current town accountant Patricia DuFresne proved successful and he wanted to repeat it for the assistant position at a cost of $20,000 to start July 1. The town manager told selectmen that the intention was to hire Talent's replacement from within town government.
* Voted to ratify the appointment of Stephen Knox as senior water technician that would see him transfer from the DPW to the Water Department. In the new position, the Pepperell resident would be paid $24.50 per hour..
* Were told that there was a vacancy on the Parks Commission as a result of the resignation of member Robert Hall.
* Voted to approve the transfer of a beer and wine package store license from Groton Convenience to new owners Omahi Realty LLC. Also approved was an alcohol package store liquor license to the same owner. Although the first approval went smoothly enough, there was some concern about the second with questions about whether the town needs to have another store in Groton with a license to sell liquor and if selectmen have the right to pick and choose which businesses are approved simply based on the geographical location of the store. In the end, an initial motion not to approve the license was defeated. The pair of approvals, however, were contingent on the new owner settling issues involving completion of a purchase and sales agreement and fulfillment of septic requirements with the Board of Health.
*Expressed regret at a conversation between themselves and Electric Light Commissioner Kevin Lindemer at a previous meeting. At that time, discussion grew heated over disagreement on how the department intended to pay for expenses incurred during the approval process for new headquarters on Station Avenue. To help mitigate that unplanned-for expense, commissioners proposed to cut their voluntary annual payment to the town of $30,000 by half, paying only $15,000 each year over the next 10 years until the cost of the fees had been covered. Cunningham said that a "post mortem" would be conducted on the permitting process while Haddad is to meet with GELD manager Kevin Kelly to discuss further the department's proposed payment plan. Sometimes, concluded Cunningham, a squabble can be useful in highlighting shortcomings in procedures and indicating the need for review.