PEPPERELL — The anticipated snow storm this week added a note of urgency to a Highway Department request for selectmen to waive an ongoing hiring freeze and reinstate 16 hours of wages lost in last year’s budget deficit recovery.
Highway Superintendent Peter Shattuck wanted the hours offered to either of the two employees who lost their jobs in the deficit crunch to fill in for vacations or sick time at either the Highway Department or the Transfer Station as a means of cutting back on overtime payouts.
He didn’t get a commitment from selectmen but town administrator John Moak will discuss the request with DPW Director Robert E. Lee.
Shattuck said it had been the Finance Committee who gave him the idea of having one employee work three days per week at the Highway Department and two days at the Transfer Station. The 16 hours would be for the Boynton Street transfer site whose budget is run under the non-tax base Enterprise Fund.
At present, the extra duty at the Transfer Station is covered by a Highway Department worker — which not only increases overtime paid out but reduces staff by a third person during that time.
“The two guys (who were laid off) didn’t want (the 16 hours) and were looking elsewhere,” Shattuck said. “Maybe we should post the position, but why would a 40-hour a week guy take 16? It’s a Friday and Saturday job.”
Chairman Joseph Sergi asked what happens regarding Highway staffing during a snow emergency.
“Then I’m in trouble,” Shattuck said. “There aren’t enough guys now. This is at the low end of the pay scale” and the additional hours “would help cut overtime drastically.”
Shattuck said Lee wants the fully funded hours reinstated and wondered why the request should come before selectmen.
“It’s hard (to cover shifts) in the summer months too with vacations,” Shattuck said.
“We’re hearing (complaints) all around us,” Sergi said.