Councilor criticizes use of overtime by DPW

Marlborough – During the Feb. 23 City Council meeting, Council President Arthur Vigeant blasted the Department of Public Works (DPW) for ignoring the mayor’s budget freeze. The scolding came after Vigeant witnessed a convoy of eight or 10 trucks transporting salt from one city storage garage to another on a Saturday.

    “I do not know how many overtime hours were used for this, which should have been done during their regular hours,” Vigeant said.

    Voicing concern over the state of the economy, he raised the question of whether the city’s department heads were taking the spending freeze instituted by the mayor seriously.

    Vigeant credited the spending freezes with the fact that Marlborough is not in the same shape as surrounding communities and he requested an explanation from Commissioner of Public Works Ronald LaFreniere.

    “I agree with Council President Vigeant … I am very concerned,” LaFreniere said.

    Two and a half months ago, he explained, he implemented a freeze on all non-emergency overtime spending, but the person who made the decision to move the salt was not in the position at that time and was therefore unaware of the policy. After recent trouble obtaining salt, the city received a delivery and the order was given internally within the DPW to fill the storage shed.

    Vigeant also criticized the DPW for poor management decisions, questioning why they did not have the salt delivered to the place where it would be stored.

    With $93,000 of overtime budget transfers approved by the Finance Committee Feb. 11 as well as an order to give Mayor Nancy Stevens spending approval of an uncapped spending amount for snow and ice removal in excess of the appropriated funds budgeted, Vigeant warned that he would not be supporting any more money transfers.

    “We need a real spending and hiring freeze,” he said. “I am not going to support any more discretionary spending or overtime budget transfer.”

    Despite his and Councilor at-Large Patricia Pope’s vote against the order giving Stevens the authority to approve additional spending for snow and ice removal, the rest of the councilors voted in favor.

    Finance Committee President Michael Ossing, who was absent during the Finance Committee’s discussion of and vote on the order, said at the Feb. 23 meeting that he would have capped the spending amount. He said he would monitor the spending and re-evaluate the issue next year. 

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