The Legislative Council has been trying to get a few more people added to the ranks of the Public Works Department, but it's been tough.
In the last budget cycle, the council budgeted for three extra positions for the department with the goal of getting an additional snow route added to the 15 already in place. The three additional employees would bring the total number of employees up to 63.
But then, when the mayor's office offered the retirement incentive to fill a hole in the 2012-13 budget, three Public Works employees took the incentive and retired, so even with the additional three employees, the total number of Public Works employees still stood at the original 60.
But now the council is again poised to add the three additional positions, just in time for winter when the additional snow route will be needed. Last week the council's Public Works Committee approved the hirings, and it will go before the full council at a special meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Government Center's third floor conference room.
But some council members weren't comfortable with the additional positions because the funding for this year is supposed to come from the sale of the Conte building, which hasn't yet happened. And in subsequent fiscal years, those positions will be built into the budget. And for all the years, the town will have to absorb the cost of the additional benefits.
"There is no guarantee -- if the building isn't sold and the money isn't allocated, it could come straight out of E&C," said Chief Administrative Officer Curt Balzano Leng, referring to the Emergency and Contingency Account. "But every attempt will be made to make up that money."
There's definitely a need for the additional manpower, said Public Works Director Craig Cesare. His department is responsible for maintenance of all town equipment except for that of the Fire Department, he said, which can get overwhelming.
The town has for years been trying to add the additional snow route, Cesare said, and has been trying to get the Public Works Union to agree to remove riders from the plow trucks and instead use the manpower on the additional route. There's a tentative agreement to that end, he said, because the need for a rider in the plow trucks is no longer there because of changes such as smaller trucks that can easier navigate narrow streets and computerized sanders that don't need a second person to operate.
"We need to remember, we own those positions by contract," Cesare said. "We would rather have them in a truck route rather than sitting in a truck with a driver."
And in the other seasons, there's plenty of work for the employees to do, he said. Right now there's only two employees who are responsible for cutting the grass in over 100 locations across the town, he said, and being able to add manpower to that task would be beneficial.