By Ray Carbone
WARNER – Town leaders are looking at two significant financial items as they prepare for the annual town meeting coming up in March.
According to Jim Bingham, town administrator, the board of selectman will be presenting voters with a long-delayed increases in town employee salaries, and the cost of installing new fire suppression systems in some municipal buildings.
The fire suppression system is the most expensive item. Bingham said recently that he was still researching how much it will cost to complete the safety requirements for the town hall, the public works garage and the transfer station.
The three-member board is particularly concerned about the public works garage, especially after fires at similar facilities in Henniker and Hopkinton caused major damage in those nearby towns. In at least one of those instances, virtually all the town’s valuable equipment stored in the structure was destroyed, Bingham noted.
In addition, because the public works facility and the transfer stations are located outside the village, they are not on the local municipal water system. “So we have to construct a holding tank, a cistern, there” the administrator said. “That could cost well over $200,000, maybe close to $1 million.”
The selectmen are reviewing those costs, as well as approximately $60,000 that would pay for fire suppression in the town hall, Bingham said.
The salary increases would total about $50,000 but Bingham said that when the particular of each current employee is factored in, the increase will likely be closer to $30,000.
The pending salary increases are related to a wage and compensation study that an outside consultant completed for the board last year. The members have been reviewing and considering the consultant’s recommendations for some months now, Bingham said, and has decided to move forward with several actions, including changing to a new system of employee steps and grades that are linked to years of service to the town as well as job-related education and training.
“This is not the first time that the town of Warner has done this,” Bingham said. “This is actually the third time we’ve had salary adjustments. The first was in the early 2000s, then we did another in 2009. And, now in 2018. So it seems like every seven to eight years we have to look at our salary structure and our job descriptions, and update them to keep them within the (local) market range.”
The town employs 28 full and part-time employees so when the current compensation package is compared to the newly approved one, the overall salary increases for the year would total about $50,000. But Bingham said that when the particular of each current employee is factored in, the increase will likely be closer to $30,000.
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper, published in Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 8, 2019.