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Wakefield City Council questions linemen skill needs

 

February 10, 2018

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

DISCUSSING a variety of issues at a Wednesday special meeting of the Wakefield City Council are, from left, mayor pro tempore Amy Tarro, council members Pat Mann and James Anderson, mayor John Granato, city clerk Sue Ahonen and city manager Richard Brackney. Not shown is council member Kay Wiita.

By P.J. GLISSON

news@yourdailyglobe.com

Wakefield - Although no formal action has been taken yet, Wakefield City Council members decided at a special meeting Wednesday to consider what employee roles will best serve the city, particularly in relation to linemen and electrical needs.

Mayor John Granato said the city is paying extra money to hire contractors to fix electrical matters because current city employees lack the skills to do such work.

"They were never trained to be electricians," said city manager Richard Brackney of the city's three linemen. "They were trained to be linemen."

Granato, a former lineman-electrician for the city, said, "It's like having a guy who's supposed to be hauling snow who can't drive a truck."

He questioned whether the city's linemen should receive additional training and voiced concern the city could be open to a lawsuit if current employees are not equipped to handle a situation such as a pump station flood.

"We may have to make some adjustments in the workforce," added Granato, who said one possibility might be to reduce the number of linemen so the city then could hire a new employee who is a certified electrician.

Brackney said the threat of some issues could be solved simply by addressing logistical issues that increase the likelihood of specialized maintenance needs.

For instance, he said, "The sewer lift stations are not supposed to handle anything but sewage." He said he and his staff are trying to address how to reduce and ultimately eliminate water flowage at the stations, so that only sewage is flowing there.

Beyond that, he pointed out that a small town such as Wakefield needs staff members who can handle multiple roles, as needed.

"My heavy equipment operator is running a lawnmower in the summer, and he's still getting his heavy equipment wages," said Brackney.

Council member Pat Mann said if the city needs a certified electrician, then that person also should be able to work as a lineman.

After the meeting, Brackney told The Globe that he would not have enough work for a full-time electrician, but said he's open to considering whatever new staffing proposals the council may propose.

Granato suggested that council members ponder the issue more and "decide where we want to go" in future meetings.

In a separate issue, council members also addressed complaints that city employees have been witnessed at a Wakefield convenience store filling gas in city vehicles and, on the same stop, also buying coffee or supplies for their families on work time.

"We're giving them 20 minutes of clean-up time," said Granato of the last segment of employee work days, when workers know they are supposed to leave vehicles ready for the next day. "They have plenty of time to fuel up."

By doing so at that designated time, he said, city employees would be better prepared to handle any given emergency, such as an electrical outage in the middle of the night.

"This is ridiculous," said mayor pro tempore Amy Tarro. "They need to follow the rules." She suggested city employees who can't follow the rules face consequences.

Brackney assured council members that he will address the issue with city employees, and that they will be told to notify him in advance if they need to go to a convenience store during undesignated fueling times.

Finally, council members also asked Brackney to document more strictly when he uses vacation time.

Granato conceded that Brackney has informed the council when he takes time off, but council members agreed that permanent records would be a good idea.

The council's next regular meeting will be on Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers of the municipal building.

 
 

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