Sweden officers’ salaries raised

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SWEDEN – After arguing about how much to pay town employees, residents voted Wednesday night to compensate two part-time workers far less than what selectmen asked.

The special meeting on employee pay was attended by about 64 people and was a continuation of the annual March town meeting. At that meeting, townspeople refused to approve the salaries selectmen recommended for the treasurer, clerk and administrative assistant, two of whom are related to two of the selectmen.

For the treasurer, Frances Flint, selectmen had asked that the pay jump from $6,739 to $16,900 this year. And for the clerk, Kelley-Marie Lavoie, selectmen asked that the compensation increase from $1,929 to $16,900.

Selectmen clarified Wednesday that they would pay by the hour – $13 per hour for roughly 20 hours per week – but that the employees would likely earn less than these totals.

Flint is Selectman Dana Nason’s mother, and Lavoie is married to Selectman Lenny Lavoie.

Ken Forde, who is on the town Budget Committee, proposed at the meeting to instead pay the treasurer $9,500 for 2006 and to compensate the clerk $6,900, and to not pay by the hour.

His motions passed, 40-23 and 41-23, respectively, by secret ballot.

Sweden has about 370 people, and many residents have questioned how much town employees actually have to work to service such a small town. The employees and selectmen say the employees work many hours per week, both at the town office and at home, and should be compensated for their time and effort.

At the Wednesday meeting, several irate residents pointed out that selectmen had promised townspeople they would form a committee to examine the jobs and propose appropriate pay.

Resident Sam Black asked the meeting moderator to allow people there to vote to definitively to form such a committee, and he recommended it comprise three to five townspeople – as well as one selectman “not related to any employee.”

“There’s a lot of confusion about job descriptions,” Black said, adding that selectmen never substantiated the salary requests.

Meeting moderator, Vern Maxfield, who is Woodstock’s town manager, said Black’s request was not allowable at Wednesday’s meeting, but he supported the town’s need to establish clear policies outlining job descriptions and the appropriate way to compensate them.

Also causing some confusion at the meeting, Nason explained that this type of information had been provided to a committee of citizens prior to the meeting, and after they had evaluated the salary proposals and the numbers of hours worked, had presumably backed selectmen.

But it was not readily clear who sat on this committee.

Ballot Clerk Jane Gibbons said that a group had studied the 22 towns in Maine with fewer than 1,000 people and found that the average wage for treasurer was $8.83 per hour and the tax collector was $12.53 per hour.

After the new salaries were approved, Lenny Lavoie asked rhetorically, “How many hours will we be open?” referring to the new town building. He answered, “One hour a week.”

Mason said, “It’ll be $1 per hour.”

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