AYER — The screening committee in charge of bringing three qualified candidates for DPW superintendent before selectmen will interview four hopefuls this month; however, the job could become shared with Harvard DPW Superintendent Rich Nota, town administrator Shaun Suhoski has advised selectmen.
That question, Suhoski said, must be settled before Ayer candidates are brought forward. He asked the board’s permission for the screening committee to meet with Nota “to gain more perspective.”
“A good idea. I’d like to talk to as many people as possible,” Selectman Gary Luca responded. “My concern is that Ayer not get the short end. I want to be sure Harvard is aware of this because it’s not an easy department to run.”
Selectman Cornelius “Connie” Sullivan’s take was a bit different.
“We need someone to manage people. We’ve had competent (technicians) but one person with people skills could manage both towns,” he said.
When Suhoski said job sharing should be explored, Sullivan asked pointedly, “I assume Harvard is on board with this? We haven’t seen anything.”
Suhoski said Harvard town administrator Tim Bragan told him that Harvard selectmen have voted yes.
Luca was concerned about a snow-plowing agreement. Suhoski suggested that if department resources were to be shared, “there’d be someone to work that out, if the person is competent.”
Chairman Carolyn McCreary agreed, suggesting Ayer’s superintendent be hired on a temporary basis, on a one-year trial, then the job could be expanded as needed.
“Who’s the hiring authority?” Sullivan asked.
Suhoski said the most practical approach is having the newly-hired superintendent be a Harvard employee and Ayer should have a working agreement with Harvard.
“Another issue is that Harvard is in a different county (Worcester) than Ayer (Middlesex),” McCreary cautioned.
Suhoski said he and Harvard officials have been adding up costs. If, for example, the job pays $125,000 then Ayer could save half that salary with the shared agreement. He said he will “flesh out” the figures within a week.
Selectmen gave the OK to pursue a shared DPW.
They also hired Townsend resident Richard Hudson as wastewater treatment plant operator.
“We’ve been at minimum EPA staffing levels and with the position vacant, we’ve been down one person (beyond minimum),” Sullivan said.
Hudson, a U.S. Navy veteran of 10 years and a board member of the Townsend VFW, said he grew up in Maynard but moved to Townsend in the 1990s. Working in construction, he earned his “grade five” wastewater treatment plant operator’s license by attending night school in Lowell.
He worked in his field until the job went away then returned to construction.
“I’ve been trying to get back into it,” he said.
Hudson’s hire is contingent upon reactivation of his inactive license, to be gained after taking 10 credit hours of study. He assured selectmen his first responsibility will be the treatment plant, not side jobs.