Webster voters support benefits package for town clerk

  • Select Board Chairman Michael Borek (left) casts his ballot concerning wages and benefits for the town clerk on Saturday. Alyssa Dandrea / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/16/2019 3:39:22 PM

After much discussion and a secret ballot vote, Webster residents overwhelmingly backed a warrant article formally establishing a compensation package for the town clerk and passed an amended $1.4 million budget to reflect the change.

Webster will continue to pay its full-time town clerk $35,000 annually and provide health insurance on the condition that she or he is available to the public a minimum of 15 hours a week — and an additional four hours during the last week of the month. The current town clerk, Michelle Derby, already receives benefits, authorized by a past select board; however, that prior authorization was given to Derby alone and would not carry forward should someone new fill the role, selectmen said at Saturday’s annual meeting.

“We want to take this away from the individual and make this about the position,” select board member Nanci Schofield said.

Voters approved the health insurance package in prior years as part of the overall operating budget, although most may not have realized it was among the line items. A minority of voters expressed concern about the lack of transparency in prior years from the board and said the effort to right past wrongs fell short.

Schofield explained the town is making an effort to remain competitive with other municipalities in the region that also offer benefits to their town clerks. Webster’s town clerk will have the same duties and responsibilities, and there is no additional expense to voters, except for the 2 percent cost of living increase included in the clerk’s wage.

“Michelle has been with this community for a number of years. She’s been dedicated to this position. I haven’t had a day yet when I didn’t get the services I needed,” said voter John Clark, one of several who expressed his appreciation to Derby and asked others to vote in favor of the article.

The article ultimately passed in a ballot of 121-44.

Because of that, the select board moved to decrease the proposed operating budget from $1,493,376 to $1,458,376 to account for the town clerk’s annual salary of $35,000, which was already approved. This year’s budget is up about 2 percent over the 2018 budget, in part, because Leslie Palmer was promoted from administrative assistant to town administrator, accounting for an 11 percent increase in her salary.

Voters swiftly approved a warrant article authorizing the select board to enter into an agreement with Hopkinton Solar, a company that will lease town-owned land at the transfer station and gives Webster an additional revenue source. They also said “yes” to adding $321,000 to various capital reserve funds and $222,500 to six existing expendable trust funds.

Alternatively, voters did not back a proposal from the select board to contract with R&D Paving of Franklin for no more than $37,000 to fix the parking lot at the public safety building. Disagreements ensued over whether the proposed work would adequately address drainage issues underneath the lot.

Road Agent Emmett Bean Sr. said his estimated the project would cost closer to $42,000 if it was done properly. He said he provided the select board with a proposal last year; however, board members said he didn’t submit a formal application in response to their request for proposals to do the work.

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