VASSALBORO — Town employees used statistics and spreadsheets to show selectmen they are paid an average of 25 to 30 percent less than the average of workers in comparable Maine towns.

One by one Thursday night, town office, transfer station and public works employees gave selectmen comparisons between their hourly wages and the average wages in half or dozen or more other towns with similar populations.

Town Manager Mary Sabins followed with a comparison of town office staff wages in all Maine towns in the same population group. The disparity was about the same.

Exact comparisons are difficult, because each town divides office duties differently, Registrar of Voters James Schad explained. Not all registrars hold the additional positions that he does as deputy to the town clerk and other officials, for example.

Road Commissioner and Public Works Foreman Eugene Field said his crew would get better pay if they drove Vassalboro school buses or worked as beginning janitors at the school.

The town office, public works and transfer station staff want selectmen to recommend more than the traditional 1 or 2 percent pay increases, to begin bringing their pay up to average.

Animal Control Officer Howard Morang and Police Chief Richard Phippen did not specifically request catch-up pay increases.

Morang said Vassalboro pays the lowest hourly rate of the several towns he serves. Also, he said, in all but Vassalboro and Windsor, the $25 late fee for dogs registered after Jan. 31 goes to him, not to the town.

Phippen said he was at the meeting to support the other employees, whom he sees frequently.

“They’re all hard workers, and they’re all underpaid a considerable amount,” he said.

Selectmen agreed. Two board members said they will consider recommending pay increases aimed at eliminating most of Vassalboro employees’ deficit over the next three years.

“It’s kind of embarrassing to pay skilled guys like our (public works) drivers 11 and a half or 12 bucks an hour,” board Chairman Philip Haines said.

However, he told the employees, “Really what you’re up against is the numbers.”

Vassalboro officials traditionally try to hold the tax rate level, so if more money goes into employee salaries, there will have to be cuts elsewhere.

Board member Robert Browne asked employees to talk with him individually and give him more information. He wants to see the entire 2012-13 budget picture before committing to the cause.

After selectmen go over the draft budget, a process scheduled to begin at a Feb. 16 morning workshop, their recommended figures go to the Budget Committee. Sabins said the first Budget Committee meeting is scheduled for March 8.

Final decisions are made at the annual Town Meeting in June.

“You know the 120 people that go to Town Meeting,” Selectmen Lauchlin Titus told the public works crew. “Be very, very careful of those mailboxes.”

Thursday’s meeting began with another discussion with Coyote Ridge subdivision residents of their plan to resolve the tax and road issues that have plagued them and selectmen for years. Spokesmen Charles O’Neal and Michael Farrell said all six residents and two owners of unbuilt lots have agreed to form a road association.

They repeated their request that selectmen foreclose on the nine unsold lots in February, when overdue taxes make foreclosure possible, and sell the lots of Farrell for $1 apiece. The new plan is that Farrell will give the land to the road association, as the fairest way to settle issues involving deed covenants.

Haines said selectmen are still willing to do their part, assuming the subdivision owners can agree on what happens next.


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