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PEPPERELL — Assured that money to pay the salary is in the current budget, selectmen unanimously waived the hiring freeze put into effect last year in order to add a 16-hour per week transfer station employee to the Highway Department at superintendent Peter Shattuck’s urging.

The department lost two full-time employees in last year’s scramble to solve a $1.9 million 2010 budget deficit.

Shattuck said last week that the resultant shuffling of employees to cover transfer station and Highway shifts has increased overtime whose budget “gets used up really fast.” The account has just $2,500 left to last until June 30.

The position would not include benefits because the minimum number of work hours would not be reached.

“My biggest point of emphasis is that it’s $16.50 per hour for the part-time employee versus the $30 range and I am funded for it,” Shattuck said. “Secondly if I do take another guy to backfill and don’t get this person it is really tying my hands.

“The town isn’t getting smaller. We need to fill vacation and sick-time shifts. This would have flexible hours and the employee would be told flexibility is expected,” he said.

Chairman Joseph Sergi asked if the superintendent had someone in mind for the job.

“No,” Shattuck answered, “maybe a retired person. The door’s open.”

Selectman Patrick McNabb asked for a guarantee of no more than 16 hours and no overtime.

Shattuck said the busiest days at the transfer station are Friday and Saturday. It is closed Thursdays.

“I’m trying to leave the Highway Department alone. I still want to march forward with projects. These things (economic downturns) happen at the worst possible times,” he said.

“We’re worried about expenses,” Sergi said.

“Me too,” Shattuck replied. “The (transfer station) rates haven’t changed. Recycling is starting to come back. We’ve got 1,600 to 1,800 customers. We used to get $3,000 for a load of cardboard then it fell to $400. It’s now about $1,200 to $1,300 plus new changes in the market decrease (on site) baling time.

Answering McNabb, Shattuck said a minimum requirement for the job is a hydraulic license and a CDL license would be preferred so as to allow the employee to drive the department’s plows.

The $16.50 per hour wage is firm, if the employee is experienced, Shattuck said. “We can bump it up but we’re starting at the bottom (pay scale) because that’s where we are.”

“It sounds like a saver. The money is there and it will cut overtime. I don’t know how I can argue against it,” selectmen Joseph Hallisey said.

“We’ve discussed alternatives. This is a good solution,” town administrator John Moak said.

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