Town looking to share Conservation Agent with Uxbridge
James Smith told the selectmen he had told them at an earlier meeting that he is working with the town of Uxbridge to hire a conservation agent who would be shared by the two towns. He added Kopelman and Paige were drafting an intermunicipal agreement he would be presenting shortly. He posted the position and expected to be receiving resumes shortly.
The town administrator said the position would pay about $45,000 per year and Uxbridge was looking to use the agent at least 20 hours per week. Smith said he felt he could use the position about 15 hours per week, making the cost to Sutton about $20,000. The rate of pay would be $25 per hour, said Smith, much less than the $85 per hour the consultant used by the conservation commission gets.
He said there might be some overlap between the two in getting the new conservation agent up to speed. Smith saw the agent working two days a week in Sutton and three in Uxbridge, attending the conservation commission meetings and preparing the agenda for it in much the same way town planner Jen Hager prepares the agenda for Planning Board meetings— go to the site, identify the issues that need to be resolved at the conservations commission meetings “and almost tee it up for the Board so that they just have to make some decisions.”
Smith said this has not been done in the past “and I perceive it to be a weakness in the whole system. I believe that this person will help the conservation commission to continue to do its job.”
Smith said he saw a number of funding sources for this and had to discuss the issue with town accountant Tim Harrison. He said he was looking for money to fund the position for the last six months of the current fiscal year. He said the money could come from reserve funds as well as wetlands protection funds, notice of intent fees (currently $50,000 here) and another $26,000 in a separate conservation fund. He noted there were significant funds available to pay the agent on a part time basis.
Selectman Michael Chizy approved of this idea because it was another way for the town to share a position with another town and save money. Selectman David Hall also thought this was a terrific idea though he had some questions about how the position was being structured. He asked Smith why Sutton was going to hire the person when it was going to use less than half of his or her time. Smith said the only real liability was the OPEB costs but this could be spread out between the two towns.
Selectman John Hebert said he thought this was a further step toward assisting those residents who used the conservation commission and it was also another step in what he called the restructuring of the agency. He said he would like to see Sutton be the lead town and bill Uxbridge for the service.