GROTON -- An effort to revive the town's defunct Personnel Board was turned aside when a majority of the Board of Selectmen voted against one of their own to deny the move.
The 4-1 decision came at the board's meeting of Feb. 25, when member Jack Petropoulos made the suggestion after taking note of a number of employment issues that had arisen in recent months which he thought could have been handled better if a Personnel Board had been active.
Although selectmen voted to discontinue the Personnel Board some years ago when the town adopted a charter and switched to a town manager form of government, Town Meeting thought differently and failed to support the move.
As a result, the Personnel Board is still on the books covered by a still-existing bylaw that has, nevertheless, been ignored by selectmen who have not appointed any members to it nor even advertised its continued existence.
It was Petropoulos' contention that the town needed the board to handle such issues as resignations and complaints that have surfaced in past months.
"There is a clear need for it," concluded Petropoulos.
But other selectmen did not agree. Peter Cunningham, who had participated in the charter formulation process, pointed out that it was found at the time that the Personnel Board was "essentially obsolete" and that many other towns and school committees did not have one.
In any case, said Cunningham, only about 16 positions would now come under the purview of a Personnel Board.
Board Chairman Stuart Schulman noted that there had not been an "epidemic" of issues that demanded the reconstitution of a Personnel Board.
Town Manager Mark Haddad, however, contested the assertion, saying that under the charter there was a process in place to handle complaints. Employees with issues to resolve were first required to speak to their department heads about it and, if not satisfied, they could move on to the town manager. If still not satisfied, a disgruntled employee could then appeal to the Board of Selectmen.
Haddad added the charge that Petropoulos had "mischaracterized" the issues cited, calling them "unfair and out of context," but did not go into detail.
Board member Anna Eliot noted that in any case, the charter superseded the bylaw.
Cunningham then read from a finding by town counsel at the time that supported Eliot's assertion.
The charter, summed up Eliot, "trumps" the bylaw and that Petropoulos' position was an "oversimplification" of the issue.
Nevertheless, Petropoulos continued to insist that because a Personnel Board was still listed in the bylaw, selectmen had no choice but to reinstate it.
"I don't think we have the option of ignoring the bylaw," said Petropoulos.
"We're just chasing our tails," said an exasperated Schulman, suggesting that if Petropoulos persisted with his argument, then he suggest a course of action that the board could vote on.
Complying, Petropoulos motioned that selectmen comply with the bylaw and reconstitute the Personnel Board while reconciling any discrepancies between the bylaw and the charter.
But the votes were against Petropoulos and the motion failed.
However, selectmen expressed a willingness to consider the issue of personnel management further with options to be considered by the Bylaw Review Committee.
Also at the Feb. 25 meeting, selectmen:
* Voted to approve a beer and wine package store license for Sheri and Dave Dean, owners of the Bliss Bakery, who plan to move in to one of the commercial spaces at Boynton Meadows come April. Currently located out of their home, the move will comprise an expansion of their business with hours set for Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., respectively.
* Voted to authorize Haddad to advertise for a new full-time building commissioner. According to land use Director Michelle Collette, the need to add a full-time position to an existing part-time one was due to an increase in building activity in town. Citing such upcoming and ongoing projects as renovation of the Prescott and Tarbell Schools, the new Center Fire Station, and developments such as Boynton Meadows and others, Collette said there was a definite need for the expanded hours. Haddad said an expected annual salary of about $70,000 for the new position could be offset with money collected from fees and from within the town's operating budget. The town manager also noted that in 2012 there were 339 building permits pulled, a sign that the housing industry, in Groton at least, was improving. "I think the need is demonstrated," commented board member Joshua Degen before voting in favor of the authorization.
* Voted to accept Winding Way, Quail Ridge Road, Forest Drive and Paugus Trail as public roads.