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Auburn weighs changes to road agent position

AUBURN — Auburn town officials have started discussions about making the town's elected road agent a salaried position.

Traditionally, road agents have received a stipend of under $2,000, but have operated as subcontractors, in effect hiring themselves to perform work on behalf of the town. Current Road Agent Mike Dross has billed the town, on average, more than $100,000 annually as a subcontractor.

"At this time, we don't have a definite path I don't think. The first thing we need to do is get a definition of (the road agent's) job description into the personnel policy to define the position. And at a later date, I am not even sure when as this could be a long ways away, we could change position from a stipend to a salaried position, and whoever was road agent would be salaried and not be an independent contractor," Selectmen Chairman Russell Sullivan said.

For now, Dross said he would take a wait-and-see approach with the proposed changes.

"They are just proposing it. I am not even sure it will happen. I am not saying that (the proposed changes) are fine with me; I am just not going to comment on them while they are still being discussed. I am sure we are going to have some frank talks about them," Dross said.

The discussion on the potential changes started publicly Wednesday during a meeting of the Personnel Committee, of which the town's Board of Selectmen is a part. Sullivan said the Board of Selectmen would continue the discussion at future meetings. He added that even if the position became salaried, it would still remain an elected position.

"I don't know how much the salary would be, but it would be less than (what is currently being billed). I am not sure if it would be more or less money for the road agent because there is a cost associated with operating equipment," Sullivan said.

Based upon his preliminary research, Sullivan said elected road agents who are salaried from surrounding towns have an average salary of $70,000. However, he cautioned that a lot more research before a potential salary for the road agent is established.

"We are not going to pay more than the average, but that is something that we can tackle over the next few months. We are not trying to get it done by next week; we don't have a deadline," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said added benefits could be seen because it might expand the pool of candidates interested in running for the position.

"It might attract persons to run for the office that aren't contractors. It could attract people with no construction background but strong management skills."

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