SHIRLEY -- Seeking to right rumor mill wrongs and perhaps quell Internet buzz, Selectman Debra Flagg on Monday night denied that the board kept things secret that should be made public.
"When I ran... I wanted to be as transparent as possible," Flagg said. But some folks apparently have their own notions about what that means, peppering social media with concerns about the town's municipal management. "A lot of people don't want to come before us with issues." she said.
Like the guy spotted during snowstorms, trailing town plow trucks in an Explorer SUV with yellow and white lights flashing. "People are asking 'who is it and why do we pay for that?'" Flagg said.
The SUV driver in question is Devens' Public Works Director David Blazon, part-time, some time temporary director in Shirley. His services were enlisted after DPW foreman Paul Farrar retired last year via an Intermunicipal Agreement with MassDevelopment, the state agency that operates Devens. The town's cost, paid to MassDevelopment, was $15,700.
He agreed to come on board temporarily, as a consultant, to help manage the DPW after the foreman left, providing some level of guidance and oversight for the rudderless crew.
Selectman Holly Haase said the board didn't have a job description or salary quote at hand but there was money in the DPW budget to cover the short term position.
Blazon was working for the town as he trailed the plow trucks, keeping an eye on the process as inexperienced plow drivers took to the roads.
At a previous meeting, Flagg noted complaints about the poor plowing job the new drivers did in the village area after the last snow storm and said she'd gone out to see for herself. While she found some streets not cleared as well as in the past, she urged patience as the new guys learn the ropes.
As for why Blazon kept watch without pitching in, the selectmen explained that was part of the deal. The agreement does not include plow driving or manual labor, and it rules out using Devens equipment, which is why he used his own vehicle.
Flagg said there are other, similar conversations out there, but the crux of the matter is that if people don't know what's going on, they might jump to the wrong conclusions.
"The elephant in the room is that... people didn't know there was a Devens director (on the job) or what he did," she said.
She agreed with Haase and Cappucci that the DPW has been doing the best job possible under the circumstances but the situation as it stands -- with only three full time laborers, one part timer and nobody in charge -- can't continue.
Flagg said she's seen a worker patching a pot hole at an intersection, alone, and that's dangerous.
The question then becomes, should the board hire another laborer, promote one of the existing crew to foreman, up his pay, and hire a director besides, or any given combination of those scenarios? Another option would be to add a director position that includes working alongside the crew.
In the works now: the foreman's position has been posted in house and applications are in, with interviews underway. A foreman will be appointed soon.
Meanwhile, Interim Town Administrator Rocco Longo has been reaching out to other towns whose highway needs are similar to Shirley's to get a sense of structure as the process moves forward.
"It's amazing that three people do it," Longo said Monday night. "But they need direction."