Town Hall/Clerical Union Employee Raise

The selectmen unanimously approved a negotiated packet for a two percent base wage increase for fiscal 2014, retroactive to fiscal 2013, for AFSCME 93, Town Hall and clerical union employees. The vote was made at their July 16 meeting.

Wiring/electrical wiring inspector fee split change

Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand requested that the Board of Selectmen authorize a change to the electrical/wiring inspector fee percentage.

The fee percentage has been 50-50 between the wiring inspector and the town. The plumbing inspector percentage, however, is split 60-40 between the inspector and town.

Pontbriand said that the fee percentage had not been adjusted in quite some time, and requested that the wiring inspector split be changed to 60-40, "like the plumbing inspector."

That rate, said Pontbriand, would be the rate for the high school renovation project. He also requested that the new rate for the wiring inspector be retroactive to July 1, 2012, which would have a $2,686.11 effect on the budget encumbered by the billing department.

"The 60-40 split seems to be consistent in other towns," he said. "The issue is the cost of the permit. The building permits need to be raised. The fundamental issue is we need to significantly adjust the building permits across the departments. They are way below."

The origin of disparity in the fee split is not known, but the issue had been discussed for several months, he said.

"I don't have a problem with going for fiscal tear '14, but not to fiscal year '13," responded Chairman Pauline Conley.

Vice Chairman Gary Luca moved to make it retroactive to July 1, 2013 and look at the previous year for consideration.

Selectman Jim Fay said he would like to hear from the building inspector.

"When I hear the word 'discrepancy,' that tells me something's wrong," he said, adding that he wants to know how the discrepancy occurred.

Home Rule Petition moving forward

In a status update on a home rule petition to reduce the number of Ayer selectmen from five to three, Pontbriand stated that the Senate approved the status on July 11.

It now goes back to the House for enactment, and then goes back to the Senate and to the governor for his signature, which may come as early as Aug. 11.

The issue would then go to a ballot question. There is a time frame for a special election, and if the question passes on the ballot, then there is another time frame for another election to elect three selectmen, Conley said.

"It can't be closer than 60 days to the annual election. If the ballot question passes to reduce the board, then three positions would be open," she said.

The individual receiving the highest number of votes would serve for three years, the second highest for two years, and the third highest for one year, after which there would be an annual election to fill one seat.

If the ballot question doesn't pass, said Conley, then the vote for selectmen would be during regular elections.

(The measure did gain state approval. See notice on this page.)

Guilt by omission

The very last agenda item covered was titled "Guilt by Omission," which had been requested by Fay.

In explaining the cryptic agenda heading, he said that he chose that title because "we have been accused of not minding our own business."

"The town counsel said tonight that everything is our business," he stated. "We have a fiduciary responsibility to look into everything.

"Everything that goes on in this town is the selectmen's business, in my opinion, and I dare say that I have legal counsel to back me up on that," said Fay.

Whatever the citizens bring up to the board, he said emphatically, "continue doing what you're doing."

"Instead of saying it is the job of the town clerk or someone else, it is their responsibility to look into things and bring it to the board. Every time somebody calls me and says for us to mind our own business, I say, 'This town is my business,'" he concluded.