New Scotland is tweaking the pay system for its recently created position of public works commissioner, but a resident questioned how hours were being maintained and some board members were surprised to find the system lacking.
The Town Board hired Wayne LaChappelle, a retired Bethlehem police officer, in August as commissioner of public works to address a mounting workload in the department. LaChappelle started the part-time position at 20 hours a week at the rate of $25 per hour. At the Wednesday, Feb. 12, meeting, the board approved changing it to a part-time, salaried position, with LaChappelle paid for working 25 hours a week. The change represents a $5,757 increase to this year’s budget.
Unlike some town employees who serve the town as a whole, the public works commissioner’s salary is billed to a particular water district if work performed exclusively benefits those customers. General work is billed to all taxpayers.
After LaChappelle gave a presentation to the board on work done to date, Tim Stanton, a Feura Bush resident, asked if there was any accounting done to distinguish what work LaChappelle has done for water districts.
Supervisor Tom Dolin said work done for certain districts would be billed to those customers and not the town has a whole. Stanton pushed for a breakdown of what LaChappelle’s work history was to date, but town officials could not readily give an answer.
“Now that he has worked for a few months, I would think we have some kind of an idea,” Stanton said.
LaChappelle simply said it was “split,” but that he would “hate to guess” what percentage of his work is broken down to the different districts and town.
“You just finished telling me that each water district is allocated with time, so somewhere those numbers have got to exist,” Stanton replied.
LaChappelle said he has kept an extensive log of his work history, but was not prepared to offer any percentages. For this year, 18 percent of his work is budgeted to water districts, which town officials said is likely going to be exceeded.
Board member Daniel Mackay asked if there was a daily timesheet to allocate for specific work, but discovered a precise timekeeping system was not implemented.
Fellow board member Douglas LaGrange said he “assumed” such a system was already in place, and he was “surprised” to hear it was not.
Mackay also said he assumed a more precise system was implemented to properly bill water districts.
Mackay was the only member voting against changing to the expanded salaried position, because he wanted a system in place for better tracking of hours worked. Fellow board members thought such a system could be quickly implemented.
“I don’t think this vote should occur before that system is in place,” Mackay said. “Apparently, we have not asked (LaChappelle) to keep this type of detail, and I have some hopes that we can recreate this detail at least going back to January.”
Dolin said the new position has been “a learning process,” and LaChappelle could reference his daily journal to allocate hours worked.
“I’m a little surprised a person from the audience … has to come up with this question,” Stanton said. “The people that oversee him or the people that run the town ought to be thinking of the (residents) in the way I am.”
Dolin said the town is “sensitive to the issue,” and he was confident records could be audited for last year and readjusted to be properly billed.
LaChappelle started the position as salaried on Monday, Feb. 17, which is the beginning of a pay period. He was also directed to provide a retroactive accounting of his work in 30 days.
Board members commended LaChappelle on his work in the new position, which has involved tackling many projects that languished over the years. He is also overseeing the creation of the New Salem Water District, bringing water to about 170 homes.