AYER - The Ayer selectmen appointed Doug Jasperson as the new DPW Highway Foreman, replacing David Kidder who retired in August. But it was not a unanimous vote.
DPW Supt. Mark Wetzel recommended Jasperson for the post. Wetzel praised Jasperson's performance on the job and noted his 18 years aboard the Ayer DPW.
"I have the most experience and I care about the town," said Jasperson.
On a 4-1 vote, the selectmen approved the appointment. Only selectman Gary Luca dissented following some criticism leveled at the highway division and Jasperson.
Luca called the recent patch installed on a Main Street sidewalk to fix a trip hazard "horrible".
"A high school student could do better work," said Luca.
"None of us are certified masons," said Jasperson.
"I thought the guys did a good job," said Wetzel. "They were trying to correct a potential hazard out there."
Luca also asked Jasperson if he still had "trouble with math" in working out cubic yards and other measurements.
Jasperson said he'd figured out tonnage accurately on road jobs without assistance. Otherwise, conversions are easily figured via computer, Jasperson countered.
Wetzel stepped in "I never noticed that" math was a concern for Jasperson. Wetzel did suggest math refresher courses would be explored for DPW crews.
Luca was lukewarm on the condition of roadways - a subject Luca had knocked heads over with former DPW Supt. Dan Nason. "Things have changed a little
Selectman Christopher Hillman sought assurances that Jasperson could effectively lead former co-workers. Hillman asked if Jasperson had established friendships that could be a "hindrance".
"I do very little socializing with the guys," assured Jasperson.
Hillman has launched a roadside beautification program. Hillman said of road conditions "I think you guys are working on that. I hope you can really push forward as the foreman."
Hillman suggested regularly-scheduled meetings with the DPW to discuss areas of town in need of attention. Jasperson agreed.
"Would it be beneficial to you guys if we sat down? Not 'Do this, Mark' or 'Do this, Doug," asked Hillman
Wetzel said Nason and Jasperson had created a highway operation plan that breaks down roadway projects on a weekly, monthly and seasonal basis. "That was put together before I got here."
Wetzel assured there's "a lot of things we do that the public doesn't see but is really critical for the infrastructure of the community. Still, Wetzel agreed "it would be a good idea to have some feedback from the board."
"I might see something going on and I may ask 'Why aren't you fixing it?" said Hillman. "It may go a long way towards keeping things flowing smoothly."
"Not micromanaging, but being as helpful as possible " said Hillman before he added. "Maybe that is micromanaging."
"We have input too," said Jasperson. "It's got to be an equal street."
"I agree with that 100 percent," said Hillman.
Selectman Frank Maxant disagreed with Hillman, stating direct public feedback to the DPW is "better input than we can provide as a board."
Maxant and Hillman have tangled in recent months over the condition of privately owned properties and the board's role in taking enforcement action against owners.
Maxant offered thanks to the others who had applied for the DPW foreman job, stating it promotes "dynamic government."
"I've never had an 'opponent' in an election," said Maxant. "I've had 'partners in the democratic process."
Selectman Pauline Conley motioned for Jasperson's appointment. Chair Jim Fay added "I've known Doug for a number of years and admire his quality of work."
"Essentially that's my comment," said Conley. "I think we have a great group of people at the DPW."
"Thank you for fixing that sidewalk," added Conley. "It's something I asked Nason to do for nearly a year."
Aesthetics on the sidewalk fix are of minor concern, Conley said. "It's fixed. No one will break their neck on it. You fixed it within one day of my mentioning it to you."
Hillman asked if the DPW works well with the police and fire departments. "Do they have a direct line to you?"
Yes, said Jasperson. "We all have a good working relationship. Do we all get along all the time? No."
"Oh, like the board of selectmen?" offered Hillman, prompting laughter in the chamber.
Among other appointments, former selectman Chuck Miller was appointed to a one year term on the Pond and Dam Committee with a term expiring June 30, 2013. The vote was unanimous.
Harry Zane and Ellen Neeland were unanimously appointed to serve three year terms through June 30, 2015 on the Green Community Committee. Lee Smith was unanimously appointed to serve through June 30, 2014 to fulfill the unexpired term of former Conservation Commission member Warren Ball.
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