Tuesday night, during the Board of Selectmen's budget review, the Recreation and Parks Department said it was hiring one more employee than originally expected. The reason was because of a judgment on a union grievance in December, according to department head Brian Flaherty.
On Dec. 22, the state labor board ruled in favor of the union that represents the recreation and park maintainers that Waterford could not outsource the landscaping of its schools, Flaherty said. Instead, another town employee will be hired and the landscaping will be done in-house, Flaherty said.
Traditionally, the maintained all the school grounds, Flaherty said. But this budget year the town decided to eliminate three positions through attrition and outsource the maintenance of the schools.
In July, the town approved a $60,700 bid by Peter S. Turello LLC to maintain the grounds at and all three elementary schools. In late August, after Turello had been on the job for a month, First Selectman Dan Steward, Superintendent Jerome Belair and Buildings and Grounds Director Jay Miner
But high-ranking representatives of the union that represents the maintainers in the recreation and parks department, not the local employees themselves, found out about the outsourcing and filed a Municipal Prohibited Practices complaint, Steward said. They challenged the outsourcing because the town’s union employees previously did the work, and town employees should continue to do the work, Steward said.
The complaint went to a hearing on Dec. 22, where the town argued it was cheaper and the quality was better with Turello doing the work, Steward said. But the state labor board ruled on the side of the union, he said.
Flaherty will now hire one more maintainer than originally planned. The cost of that maintainer is roughly the cost of the Turello contract, so “it is basically a wash,” Flaherty said.
Still, Steward is demanding the same quality of work from the recreation and parks department that the town was getting from Turello. The work by Turello was “absolutely” better than the work previously done by the recreation and parks department, and if they can’t match that quality, the town will bring the complaint back to the state, Steward said.
“I have no doubt in my mind (the recreation and parks department) can do the job,” Steward said. “They can do the job, and they can do a good job. It is up to them to do it.”
Meanwhile, despite some restructuring of the staff, the recreation and parks department still has one less maintainer, down from eight to seven, Flaherty said. Still, he believes that despite one less man, his crew can still get the work done.
“It is going to be an experiment,” he said. “But I think we can do it.”