Town Administrator Resigns, Road Crew Unionizes

by Doug McClure

WOLCOTT – The Wolcott Select Board averted a crisis last week. Two weeks ago, Road Foreman Dillon Cafferky resigned, according to Chair Linda Martin, on the grounds of “stress and negativity” from some residents. Over the following days, rumors circulated in town that other members of the road crew were considering following Cafferky out the door.

The select board met in an emergency executive session on September 11 to attempt to ward off a serious problem with winter right around the corner. Cafferky and the other road crew members were offered a “competitive hourly wage.” In addition, the board voted to “move forward with recognizing a union or entering into an employment contract,” whichever the road crew decided.

Vice chair Kurt Klein later detailed the board’s thinking and said that “a competitive wage … reflects the reality of heavy equipment operators’ compensation in today’s well-funded market. In response to job security, where the road crew may find themselves at the whim of future select boards, the board offered two options. First, the board approved moving forward with an employment contract with the town which would survive future changes in the board’s makeup. Second, the board approved the option of supporting the road crew’s wishes to join a union.”

At the September 15 meeting, Martin told the road crew, “I just wanted to give my personal thanks for accepting our offer and staying with us. I really appreciate your work, I think you do a good job. Because you are really dedicated to what you are doing and took a lot of pride in your work, the last couple of weeks have been hard.”

The board asked the road crew which option they wanted. The first option was full union representation, the second option an employment contract, and lastly, a middle ground where the board agreed to collective bargaining, but not a union. One concern of the road crew is their employment situation can change drastically with every incoming select board. The road crew opted to unionize, which precludes an employment contract since the union will be handling representation for the crew.

Klein later elaborated, “The Union that will be representing the road crew is Massachusetts & Northern New England Laborers’ District Council on behalf of Laborers’ Local 668 based in Hooksett, N.H. Mr. [Larry] Moquin who attended the select board meeting is the regional organizer, Laborers’ New England Region. The town also received a Petition of Collective Bargaining from the Vermont Labor Relations Board. The petition calls for the town to respond in one of three ways. First is to accept the representation as petitioned. Second is to agree to a consent election and Third to is to schedule a hearing with the Vermont Labor relations Board. Consistent with the motion of September 11, in which the board stated it would support union representation a motion was made last night to accept option one. By doing so the board and the petitioners (road crew) will have accepted ‘exclusive’ representation by the union. As a result the second option of drafting an employment contract with the town will be taken off the table.”

Wolcott’s entire road crew, including Cafferky, is staying on.

One outstanding issue is the lack of water at the town garage. The board authorized contacting Morristown-based N.A. Manosh to try to solve the issue.

While the board averted being short-handed on the road crew during the winter by accepting the union, it had to deal with another resignation. Town Administrator Randall Szott resigned on September 8. He cited negativity in the town and a hostile work environment. 

The board discussed feedback from the September 10 community event that was designed to publicize several town projects the board has been researching. 

Klein said he had heard “nothing but superlative comments. They haven’t seen Wolcott doing anything like this in forever.”

Town Clerk Belinda Clegg said that the board might consider hosting the event annually, especially in light of the limited ability to reach a wider audience through traditional means. 

Martin agreed, and said she had heard, “‘let’s do it next year again.’ There was quite a bit of enthusiasm, most I think for the [community] forest.”

Board member Kurt Billings said he had heard some discussion after the event about fiber optics.

Martin said that “people had the opportunity to be a little more informed,” which was her primary objective in planning the event. 

The board has been working with local technical expert Dolan Patrick to improve the quality of hybrid meetings. Klein said, “to improve the quality of remote access” the board will purchase equipment, which would “include a large, wall mount screen, better camera and a document reader for public paperwork display and, hopefully, improved sound and a hardwired internet connection.”