FARMINGTON — Selectmen temporarily approved not giving municipal employees a cost-of-living pay adjustment Tuesday night.

They also agreed Tuesday to keep Public Works Director Denis Castonguay working through the winter because they can’t find a replacement for him. Castonguay had planned to retire before the season started.

Once the town receives 2016 health insurance costs, the board will consider a pay increase, selectmen decided. The decision came after much debate.

Town Manager Richard Davis generally recommends that the board align its adjustments with the Consumer Price Index average cost of living for urban wage earners and clerical workers. But for 2016, the Consumer Price Index reflected a decrease in the cost of living by 0.175 percent for municipal employees nationally. The board decided it would not be fair to decrease the current rate of pay and instead kept it the same.

“I appreciate the hard work that the employees do, so I don’t think we should give them a pay cut,” Chairman Joshua Bell said.

Davis noted that employees are required to pay half of any increase in health insurance premiums, so if 2016 premiums are higher than 2015 rates and there is no increase in employee wages, they are in effect receiving a pay cut because they are having to pay more for insurance out of their salary or wages.

“If you said no raises, I would strongly recommend we don’t require employees to pick up half of their premium (increase),” Davis said.

Health insurance costs for 2016 are expected to be known sometime in early or mid-November, Davis said. The board decided it would be in the employees’ best interest, if rates increase, to reflect that with a cost-of-living pay increase.

The board plans to re-evaluate the cost-of-living increase at their first meeting after the 2016 health insurance rates are known.

Castonguay will be compensated an additional $3,850 this year after he agreed to postpone his retirement and stay on through the winter season because the town is having difficulty finding a replacement for him.

Both candidates whom Davis favored for the position withdrew their applications earlier this month.

“We’re skunked at this point. We’re back to square one,” Davis said.

The board decided it was best for the Public Works Department to keep Castonguay on through the winter because a person with experience is needed to manage the municipal plowing and snow removal. Davis will re-advertise for candidates for the position in April.

The board also approved a $21,615 sidewalk project that would improve and extend the sidewalks along the Hippach Field Area on Farmington Falls Road. The U.S. Department of Transportation will fund 80 percent of the project.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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