Harpswell road commisioner seeks 100% salary hike

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HARPSWELL — Selectmen are considering a 33 percent pay increase for the town’s elected road commissioner.

The proposed $20,000 annual salary is more than three times the $6,000 that Road Commissioner Ronald Ponziani was paid when he was first elected three years ago, but less than the $30,000 he is requesting. 

Ponziani currently earns $15,000 a year.

Selectmen, at a workshop last week, agreed to send the $5,000 increase to the budget advisory committee, noting their skepticism that requirements of the road commissioner job entitle Ponziani to the salary equivalent of a full-time employee.

Ponziani, in an interview Monday, said he has been encouraged to stand his ground and hold out for his full request.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me to stick right to what I’m after, not to back off,” he  said.

Ponziani described his position as a “24/7” job, where he is frequently called out to deal with problems.

“I get calls all the time,” he said. “There’s no set time on the road commissioner’s job for the simple reason that you never know what’s going to happen.”

According to town policy, the commissioner is primarily responsible for budgeting, scheduling, and supervising maintenance and construction work on town roads. He is also expected to inspect roads annually and deal with emergency conditions.

The road commissioner has no set hours, but on Dec. 3 selectmen expressed skepticism that the position takes up the time needed to justify Ponziani’s full request.

“There’s no way I can see it as a 40-hour-a-week job,” Selectman Kevin Johnson said.

Johnson further noted that there is an expectation that the road commissioner understand that the time put into the job is limited.

“I want to treat you fairly, but we have to look after the taxpayers,” he told Ponziani.

In response, Ponziani said that the commitment he puts into the position, as well as his 45 years of experience in construction, should entitle him to his full request.

“You can’t be out there and do a good job without putting your heart into it,” he told selectmen.

On Monday, Ponziani said a wage and salary report recently released for Harpswell supported his request. The report, by consultant Michael Wing, compares Harpswell employee salaries to those in similar nearby communities. 

The most comparable road commissioner positions were in Phippsburg, where the commissioner receives $6,860 per year; West Bath, where the job pays $5,000, and Bowdoin, where the commissioner gets $1,200.

In other communities, either the road commissioner is compensated via paid work they perform for the town, or a public works director fulfills the job duties.

Because of the wide variety of data, and after “considerable contemplation,” Wing placed the road commissioner position at pay grade 4, with a minimum competitive salary of about $35,000 annually.

If the budget committee agrees to raise the commissioner’s salary, its recommendation will appear on the Town Meeting warrant next spring. Selectmen can also issue their own recommendation. 

Ponziani will complete his term as commissioner this year. He said intends to run in 2015 for another three-year term.

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.

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Budget committee to consider salary increases

HARPSWELL — The town’s budget committee will consider pay increases for 17 full- and part-time employees that could increase the 2015 budget by almost $33,000.

The Board of Selectmen sent the increases to the budget committee at a meeting Dec. 3, and will act after the panel returns its recommendations.

The recommended increases are the product of a consultant’s report released in November, which showed Harpswell employees are largely on the lower end of the pay scale compared with towns of similar size.

The report included a new pay-grade schedule for the town, and assigned each position a minimum, median and maximum salary in line with how much employees are paid in other communities.

Selectmen then adjusted the recommended salaries to reflect how long employees have been working for the town.

Increases for individual positions range from about $1,000 to $1,800, but there are several outliers, including the town’s code/planning assistant and the deputy tax collector, two positions on the lowest end of the new pay scale.

Selectmen recommend raising the hourly wage for both positions to $14.60, which would increase the code assistant’s annual pay by $3,600 and the deputy tax collector’s by nearly $4,100.

Board members have previously said the raises are necessary to bring the two positions onto the new pay scale.

Similarly, the town’s treasurer, Marguerite Kelly, who reportedly works between 20 and 25 hours per week, is recommended to receive a $5,300 increase from her current $20,400 stipend.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane is in line to receive almost $2,400, bringing her annual salary to $75,700. That would place at the highest pay grade, but still between the minimum and median salaries included in the consultant’s report.

— Peter L. McGuire

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