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Raises, sewer work ahead for Montague special town meeting

Recorder/Paul Franz
Two portable pumps move sewage around a collapsed sewer line at the entrance to the Airport Industrial Park in Montague.

Recorder/Paul Franz Two portable pumps move sewage around a collapsed sewer line at the entrance to the Airport Industrial Park in Montague.

MONTAGUE — Pay raises for town employees and money for the Millers Falls Road sewer failure and to replace an elementary school boiler are among the items on the agenda for a special town meeting in September.

Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio said the raises, totalling almost $140,000 for this fiscal year and retroactive to July 1, are the result of a pay and classification study commissioned by the town and carried out by Stone Consulting.

Abbondanzio said the consultants conducted a market study of about 20 comparable towns and developed new pay scales for town employees based on those of their peers in those towns and internal equity.

Abbondanzio said the study is a fairly standard process the town has undergone at least twice in the past two decades.

A special town meeting in April 2012 appropriated $18,000 to hire a consultant for the townwide study.

Requested raises for nonunion employees, including the town administrator, police chief, accountant and department heads total $17,962.

That sum breaks down to $5,125 for the town administrator, $181 for the town accountant, $5,599 for the police chief including educational incentive pay, $1,525 for the Department of Public Works superintendent, $181 for the health director, $984 for the library director, $1,180 for the sewer department superintendent, $687 for the selectmen’s secretary, and $1,309 for the airport superintendent.

Abbondanzio said negotiations are not yet complete with the several unions, but the agenda includes requests for the raise amounts recommended by the study; $55,550 for employees represented by the Town of Montague Employee Association, $23,420 for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America and $43,320 for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.

Sewer line replacement

Leading the sewer appropriations is a $1,000,000 appropriation to replace sewer lines on Industrial Boulevard and Millers Falls Road, but Abbondanzio said bids for the project have come in below expectations, with $750,000 the high end.

The project is for work at the periphery of the sewer line blockages and apparent collapse near the intersection of the two roads at the mouth of the Industrial Park, new work beyond the emergency work already completed.

The state authorized the town to spend money without the usual advertising and bid process for emergency work to correct the problem, then a second time to correct a mistake in laying the new lines.

The $1,000,000 appropriation is for work not considered an emergency need, but that Abbondanzio said still has to be done.

Lines under Industrial Boulevard are made of an asbestos concrete that is in very poor condition, according to the town’s consultants, likely corroded by caustic waste discharged from the Australis Aquaculture fish farm. Abbondanzio said it is his understanding the waste currently discharged is less caustic, and the new pipes are made of PVC plastic rather than asbestos cement and are less prone to corrosion.

Also on the agenda are three appropriations totalling $961,926 to fill deficits and shore up budgets drained by the emergency sewer spending.

Added to the agenda the week after its initial project was a new unexpected cost: the need to repair or replace a boiler at the Sheffield building of the Montague Elementary School. The boiler stopped working about two weeks ago.

Other spending

In other spending, town meeting members are asked to approve an appropriation of $14,070 for Montague’s 25 percent contribution to the funding of an animal control officer position, to be filled by Greenfield’s current animal control officer and shared between Greenfield, Montague and Deerfield. The state recently mandated that towns have an animal control officer.

Also on the agenda for the meeting Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. in the Turners Falls High School theater:

■ Rescind spending authority for the $716,812 remaining from $750,000 appropriated in 2010 for town building infrastructure improvements, the majority of energy efficiency upgrades having been covered by grants.

∎ $18,015 to increase the debt budget.

∎ $8,729.40 to pay prior year bills of the sewer treatment plant.

∎ $120,000 to reduce sewer rates this year.

∎ $1,991 to pay town bills from a prior year.

∎ $31,220 for an additional groundskeeper position at the Department of Public Works.

∎ $3,600 to pay a court judgement to Richard Conley in connection with his occupancy of town property at 33 Bridge St. and 26 East Main St., Millers Falls.

∎ $200,000 for the town savings fund.

∎ $860 to pay Turners Falls Fire District taxes and interest on the former St. Anne’s rectory at 25 Sixth St., now town owned.

Change the funding sources for this year’s Gill-Montague Regional School District assessment to move $40,616 from town savings to taxation.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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