ASHBY — Selectman Geoff Woollacott wasn’t kidding when he said to Highway Superintendent William Davis, “You’re in the frying pan tonight, Bill.”
Davis was on hand for two issues before the selectmen — a complaint about road grading and a more ominous discussion about his sale of DPW scrap.
Several residents of Piper Road appeared before selectmen over problems they had had with the road-grading process.
“We live on the dirt portion of Piper Road,” said Denise Parmenter, one of the residents of that street. “It gets graded two, three times a year. A 3-foot mound of dirt is plowed right in front of our driveway. I was 20 minutes late for work.”
Parmenter said she called Davis and asked if he could have the dirt plowed to the other side of the road and to let residents know in advance about grading. She said her requests were refused.
Davis said the process of grading requires the dirt to be plowed to one side before the grader gets to the end of the road section and turns around. He said this usually takes about half an hour. During that period, there is nothing that can be done with the dirt pile, he said.
Also, Davis said, there is no procedure in place to notify residents of upcoming road work.
After a discussion of how residents could be effectively and inexpensively notified of upcoming work, Jim Russell, another resident, suggested placing a sign at each end of the road on the day before scheduled work.
“That is the easiest,” town administrator Linda Sanders said.
Parmenter also said an 8- to 12-inch ditch is left at the end of her driveway each time the road is graded. Davis agreed to inspect the work after it is done and make sure the road and the end of the driveways are level.
Part of the problem, Davis said, is the culverts at the ends of the driveways are not kept clear and the road washes out. The only way to prevent wash-outs is to keep these culverts clear or to pave the road, he said.
Cleaning out the culverts is the responsibility of the homeowners, he said. The residents responded that the culverts clog up so frequently it is impossible for them to maintain them.
Sanders agreed the problems were specific to gravel roads. A number of similar complaints along Weir Road stopped after that road was paved, she said.
Later in the meeting, the selectmen’s agenda called for the board to meet in executive session to discuss complaints against a public employee. Davis agreed to hold the discussion in open session, saying he did not see the need for privacy since he already admitted he was wrong.
Woollacott said he was told by a citizen that Davis had sold scrap material and was planning to use the proceeds to buy a plow for the town. The cash from the scrap sale was not turned in to the town until after Woollacott contacted Davis.
“I do not think you were doing that to take the money and pocket it personally,” Woollacott said. “No one thinks that’s what you were trying to do.”
However, by failing to follow town procedure, “you could have been in a world of hurt,” Woollacott said. “I know you care deeply about the town.”
The selectmen also discussed Davis’ approach to citizens’ complaints, asking him to be more responsive.
“You can’t just shut the door,” Selectman Dan Meunier said. “You have to communicate. All of us work for the town.”