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Hudson selectmen debate job description for town engineer

Union Leader Correspondent

January 15. 2014 11:30PM

HUDSON — As town officials prepare to fill an anticipated vacancy in the town's engineering department, the Board of Selectmen remains divided on the topic of that department head's responsibilities.

A public hearing on the matter led to a lengthy debate during Tuesday night's board meeting, where the board majority ultimately voted, 3-2, in favor of posting the soon-to-be vacant town engineer position without altering the job description.

The job will be posted publicly this weekend, according to Town Administrator Steve Malizia.

Selectman Roger Coutu and Vice Chairman Nancy Brucker both voted against keeping the job description as is, arguing that the position should go back to the way it was before responsibilities were added in May.

"I think we made a number of mistakes in our handling of this," Brucker said, referring to the board's decision last year to change the job description shortly after hiring a new engineer.

The town engineer is in charge of supervising both the town planner and zoning administrator, though that wasn't always the case.

This past May, selectmen changed the job description to increase the town engineer's supervisory responsibilities. The town engineer previously supervised only the town's civil engineer and the department's administrative aide, in addition to engineering interns.

According to Malizia, Town Engineer Patrick Colburn resigned after working for the town for just over a year. His last day on the job is Jan. 31.

Hudson's engineering department provides technical support to the town's Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Zoning Board, as well as the sewer and water utility committees. The department is also tasked with reviewing and inspecting various development projects.

Malizia approached the board this week to get permission to publicly post the anticipated job opening.

Coutu agreed the position ought to be filled but wondered whether the recent amendments to the job description should be rescinded.

"Patrick did an outstanding job," Coutu said. "But when we consider what we pay an engineer, we were very fortunate to have found him."

Coutu said he took issue with a particular line in the amended job description that states the town engineer "shall provide supervision to employees in the civil department."

"When you're supervising some personnel that are paid more than you, that have been there longer, I think we inundated him," said Coutu. "It makes for a very difficult situation."

Colburn did not speak at Tuesday's meeting, nor did he state his reasons for resigning.

According to budgetary documents listed on the town's website, the town engineer's salary is listed as $77,418, which is lower than the salary of the town planner ($83,616), but higher than salaries of the zoning administrator ($71,656), the part-time civil engineer ($37,577), and a full-time administrative aide ($35,360.)

Selectman Ted Luszey, who voted in favor of retaining the current job description, said the departmental organization changes made last spring were the result of a seven-month study process intended to streamline operational procedures.

"There would be consequences if we made any moves at this juncture," he said.

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