For many years I was a Fence Viewer, a town position that was fairly active, with a few calls and inquires per year. When I hit my term limit, I decided to continue to volunteer and looked at the two other “odd” jobs, Weigher of Coal and Inspector of Wood, Lumber and Shingles.
As a Fence Viewer I learned there were both state statutes and materials available from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to help explain the job, so my first step with Coal and Lumber was to look up what the jobs required.
VLCT said the positions were considered obsolete and unnecessary. They date from an earlier time prior to consumer protection laws, and now everything these positions were responsible for are handled in other ways.
I made it my goal to help streamline the town and eliminate these two unnecessary positions. Why waste time advertising, interviewing and appointing people who do nothing?
In year one I made this my sole goal, indicating it on my application. I was appointed and immediately requested the position be eliminated. I wrote to the Chair of the Selectboard and the Town Manager to inform them. I was told it would be considered.
After a while, and no progress, I repeated my request. Again, time passed, but this time around I was told that the position was written into the Charter and would require a Charter change at Representative Town Meeting in 2016, and, being late in the year, could not be on the meeting warning this time around.
My first year was a failure.
So, I reapplied for a second year. Again, I indicated my sole reason for wanting the job was to end it, and I was again appointed. I again requested that the matter be addressed, and was told to wait until closer to Representative Town Meeting agenda time. I did.
My most recent reminder was a simple one - that everyone had told me that Representative Town Meeting is the way to eliminate these positions, RTM warnings were being set, and I asked again to have the unnecessary position eliminated.
I got this surprising response today from the Town Manager: “David Gartenstein and Kate O’Connor have advised me that they are not inclined to put the Charter amendment you desire on a Selectboard meeting agenda this January.” It was suggested that I gather signatures for a petition, or wait longer.
Really? This isn’t political. It isn’t controversial. It simply saves Town staff a bit of time and effort to apply to better things. It’s more efficient. It’s up-to-date and correct. It’s hardly anything at all.
To add this to the warning would take no time. It would barely take time at the Representative Town Meeting to take the vote. It would be easy and done with.
I’m not going to gather signatures to help the town with an administrative fix. That would be a silly use of time. I feel this should be something the board wants to do because it streamlines town operations.
But again, I have failed in my stated quest to end the Weigher of Coal and Inspector of Lumber positions.
I have failed you, the voters, who placed their trust in the Selectboard to appoint someone capable of doing what he says he will do. My deepest apologies.
With your permission, fellow citizens, I will again apply for the job and try my best to eliminate it in the coming year.