Employee vacation time has been a source of confusion and debate at several recent selectboard meetings. The matter was first discussed at the board’s August 8 special meeting after retiring economic development director Ken Black noticed a discrepancy in his vacation time. In discussions that followed, it was discovered that what the board deemed to be a longstanding misinterpretation of the town’s vacation policy had potentially resulted in numerous employees missing out on owed time.
Under the policy, town employees accrue 6.67 hours of vacation time per month for the first 12 months of employment, which, as it is accrued, can be used during the first year. At the start of an employee’s second year of employment, a new 80 hours of paid vacation is awarded.
Under the previous interpretation, employees accrued 80 hours over the first year but no additional time was awarded at the start of the second. So, employees had 80 total hours spread out over the first 24 months of employment.
On August 15, the board adopted clarifying language in the policy and asked town administrator Jeannette Eckert to audit the previous six years to see who, if anyone, had missed out on vacation time. At the time, the board discussed potentially paying out any lost time, pending the results of the audit.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Eckert said she had completed an audit and no one was due any time.
Vice chair Vicki Capitani expressed surprise, and Eckert said that by her calculations, everyone’s first 24 months had unfolded under the same interpretation as one another (80 hours total for the first 24 months).
Capitani, seemingly frustrated, said that wasn’t what the board had agreed to at its August 15 meeting.
The discussion that followed was chaotic at times. Police chief Randy Johnson said that while he supports employees accessing any benefits possible, in the past employees were never granted vacation for their first year.
Board member Joe Mahon, who abstained from the original votes on the matter because he thought it was unnecessary to rehash history, left the room temporarily and then returned to sit among the public, saying he would not participate in a vote and if he spoke, it was as a member of the public. At one point, as discussion unfolded among board members and the public, Eckert said she still wasn’t sure what the board wanted.
Breaking through the energy that had risen in the room, Capitani said, “I’m inclined to take it from the day we adopted it. It was unilaterally done per what was the norm. People were all treated fairly. I feel today that we have to do it from August forward.”
The board followed Capitani’s suggestion, at which point debates about individuals’ vacation time began to fly. Vacation time that will be owed to new economic development director Steve Neratko, who remained silent, became a point of discussion.
Black, who by his estimation is owed an extra week in his sixth year along with unilaterally missing two weeks from his first 24 months, was told he would get the extra week for his sixth year but that the two weeks from his first two years would not be repaid. His wife Joan, who was sitting next to him, muttered that the decision was ridiculous.
In other matters, Sherman said she thinks the assessor’s office as well as other town offices could benefit from a large-format printer and scanner, which would be used to digitize and print assessor records. Capitani suggested that Sherman should have included this in her budget for the year, which is now set, and said she thought the matter should wait until a new budget is voted on. Sherman suggested funds be taken out of the town’s reappraisal fund, which has $335,000 in it.
“It’s our understanding is that it is for maintenance of the grand list,” said town appraiser Jeremiah Sund, “which this would be used to do.”
The board tabled the discussion until treasurer Marco Tallini can verify that the printer would be an appropriate expense from the reappraisal fund.
Neratko reported that he received approval from VTrans for Valley Trail C. “This allows us access to grant money for the $1.2 million it will cost,” said Neratko.
Neratko also gave the board an update about bridge No. 59, which the town has been trying to get funding for, saying the town had received a response from Jon Kaplan, of the agency of transportation.
“They have come back to us with several options,” said Neratko. “To either build a shared use path and continue the blacktop path that we have been building and requesting funds for and putting scoping studies together for. They would positively look at that in terms of grant money, including a separate bridge. A second option is to build a sidewalk the whole length from where we have left off currently up to Mount Snow, which would be at our expense, and it would cost us $50,000 to have bridge No. 59 installed.”
“So this puts us in a spot where we have to do it this way via their rules,” said Mahon.
“With our funds,” said Neratko.
“I frankly don’t think the sidewalk is the best way,” said Capitani. “It needs to be a multi-use path. We need to get it safe and let bicycles go on it, too. And as much as I’m very disappointed that they’re playing this game, it does allow us (to seek) federal grant money, and we have to put our own bridge in and that stinks, but honestly do we really want a sidewalk all the way up there? That’s a lot. That’s heavy duty. And the cost from the paved walkway to a sidewalk is going to be huge, and clearing a sidewalk is really expensive. I’m feeling that option one is the best option I can see for the town.”
“I don’t understand how they can just tell us that if they make it so you can walk across the bridge, we have to build a sidewalk,” said Mahon. “I just don’t see how they can come down here and tell us to do that.”