ARLINGTON — Town administrator Nick Zaiac wants to convert the town’s current three-person part-time recreation park maintenance staff into a single full-time position.
Zaiac proposed the change to the Arlington Select Board at the most recent board meeting.
No decisions were made, but board members seemed receptive to the idea and agreed the proposed change would be put into the upcoming budget discussions with a potential change and start date of March 15, after the next town meeting.
The Arlington recreation park features a diverse area featuring baseball, softball and soccer fields; basketball, tennis and pickle ball courts; a swimming hole, walking path, dog park, an ice skating rink, picnic shelter, and a nine-hole par-3 golf course.
It also hosts the summer farmers’ market and a variety of other community events and is home to several Arlington Memorial High School sports teams.
Zaiac told the board that, thanks to the recommendation of Select Board member Todd Wilkins, he thinks the town should shift to a full-time position that would handle the summer maintenance at the rec park, as well as help the highway crew with the sidewalk plowing in the winter.
Zaiac has proposed creating a recreation supervisor, which would be a full-time equivalent, year-round position of about 1,255 hours per year.
The position would be responsible for maintaining the recreation park, the Yellow Barn property, Church Street median, Town Hall and other locations. It would pay $17 an hour for work that varies seasonally. The position would also count as a full-time employee and be eligible for health care and pension.
The problem is that three current employees work about 40 to 60 hours combined, providing uneven work, management efficiencies, coordination problems, slow progress for long-term projects and other issues.
That breaks down into 15 to 20 hours per week per person.
The supervisor would remain on staff during the winter with reduced duties. The other two employees would be eliminated.
It also requires the town to outsource some projects to get them achieved in a timely manner.
Finally, some town properties fall through the cracks. The town uses a volunteer to mow the town hall grass and other arrangements have to be made. By moving toward a full-time position, there would be better maintenance of the dog park and more efficient mowing with the town’s new high-speed, zero-turn mower.
Zaiac said the town is ready for the position because the park is now mature, requiring less installation and additions and has now transitioned mostly to maintenance needs.
The current park maintenance staff is primarily responsible for mowing, trimming, athletic field upkeep, bathroom cleaning and upkeep, trash collection, event facilitation, minor improvement projects and some oversight of other locations.
The plan is designed to create a stable presence at the park throughout the day.
Currently, Zaiac told the board, many of the members of the crew like to work morning hours, meaning there are often no workers later in the day.
There would be efficiency gains and opportunities for training during inclement weather.
The position would help cover winter maintenance work that doesn’t require a trucking driver’s license, or CDL.
The position would also help with the maintenance of the Yellow Barn property and mowing once the disk golf course is installed.
With one person doing most of the lawn maintenance, the town would not have to own and maintain multiple mowers.
The seasonal breakdown would provide 40 hours of mowing during the peak season of May through mid-September.
It would provide for five hours of sidewalk and path plowing from November to mid-April, with additional duties as needed.
That would result in $21,300 in annual wages, plus $1,500 in taxes for a total of $22,800.
The total compensation, including the payroll tax would be $34,000 to $54,700, depending on the cost of the health insurance plan. The estimate is that the position would cost about $43,000.
That does not account for the lower workman’s compensation costs.
Zaiac pointed out that Vermont law caps part-time employment at 390 hours per quarter, which equals a maximum of 30 hours of work per week and labor laws punish attempts to avoid health insurance.
He pointed out the duties would require a learning curve, including how to take care of the greens, drainage needs and facilities.
There are some risks, Zaiac pointed out to the board.
Among them are that the efficiency gains might not create a net reduction in park labor. There are also concerns about the learning curve and what to do on rainy days.
There were questions about whether or not one person could handle all the mowing during the summer, but Zaiac said the addition of a minimum wage mower during the peak months would add about $2,000.
He said there has been a lack of seasonal labor and finding someone to work part-time has been hard as people are seeking full-time employment.
The job would be one of the only jobs that would be full-time and provide a pension and health care.
Zaiac said there has been some talk about potentially working with the schools.
The school leadership has expressed interest in selling the town its equipment for a low cost and having the town handle the school’s plowing.
This would help with the workload during the winter to reduce some of the off-season slack.