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On-call status may change for public works employees

Staff writer

In the wake of a problem with the telemetry system that allowed water in the Peabody tower to drop to a critical level March 20, Peabody City Administrator Mac Manning recommended at the March 29 meeting that changes in the on-call coverage be implemented.

“Due to the nature of the services we provide the citizens of Peabody, employees of the water, sewer, and street departments must be available to respond to any emergency situation that may develop after working hours,” Manning said. “By accepting a position with the city of Peabody in water, sewer, or street departments, the employee accepts the city’s on-call policy as a condition of employment.”

Prior to the emergency on March 20, public works department employees were not physically checking the tower and system when on call. They were relying on the alarm system to alert them to any problems.

However, when the alarm system failed, no one was aware of it and the level of water began to drop.

The telemetry system was unable to signal the alarm because employees had changed the phone numbers, but neglected to notify the system.

“If they had actually checked the tower, they would have known the water level was down,” Manning said. “Due to federal and state regulations, we have an obligation to the public to maintain and service those utilities. Our obligation to the taxpayers of Peabody does not end at the end of the business day.

“That is why there is a need for on-call schedules and adequate coverage after regular working hours,” he added.

Manning presented a new regimen that public works employees will have to follow from now on if the council approves it.

The public works building, sewer lagoons, sewer lift station, water tower, and burn pit must be checked and a report form filled out for each Saturday and Sunday or holiday.

The on-call employee will be guaranteed 2.5 hours each day subject to overtime pay if 40 hours have been worked the preceding week for Saturday work and if 40 hours are worked the following week for Sunday work.

After-hours or emergency service will be compensated at 1.5 times the base rate per hour worked with a one-hour guarantee.

Council members will study the proposal and vote on the matter at the Monday meeting.

Firewall issue discussed

Manning and the council reviewed a letter from Brock Baker stating he would not be installing firewalls in his buildings. The council went into executive session to discuss confidential data relating to the financial affairs of individual proprietorships.

On return to open session the council unanimously approved having the city attorney draft a letter to Baker informing him the city will contact Poole Fire Protection, Inc. to inspect his buildings and determine code violations to city ordinances. The cost of the inspection is $2,772.50. The charge will be borne by the owner either by invoice or by having the charges placed on his tax bill.

In other business:

  • Frank Doerrler of 207 South Olive St. was present to dispute water and sewer charges for his residence. Mayor Larsen offered to research the billing with city treasurer Stephanie Ax. He will meet with Doerrler before the next council meeting and try to resolve the issue.
  • Manning informed the council that Elmer Carson will demolish the house at 909 N. Vine St. and renovate the one at 907 N. Vine St. Manning said Carson has a permit for the work and has paid the utility hookup on the house to be renovated. He has hired a contractor and an electrician. Council members voted unanimously to give Carson a chance to get the work done.
  • The council approved a request by the Fourth Fest Society for barricades for July Fourth.
  • Police Chief Bruce Burke reported the police department’s move to the new building was nearly complete. Discussion of an open house was tabled until Burke could set a date with the public works staff.
  • The patrol car damaged in the March 5 arson fire was repaired. Insurance covered 100 percent of the cost.
  • Burke requested an executive session to discuss non-elected personnel. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • The council made a $100 donation to Relay For Life and a $100 donation to the Safe Kids Camp for Peabody-Burns Elementary School students.
  • Caleb Good was present to review the city’s insurance with the council. The city opted to purchase coverage without a terrorism clause for $20,875.
  • In the absence of public works director Darren Pickens, Ronnie Harms gave the monthly report.
  • Health and Safety officer Tammy Whiteside updated the council on the list of nuisance properties.

Last modified April 7, 2010

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