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Town employees give up bonus days, cutting $68,000 from budget


January 06, 2010
In a rare morning session on New Year's Eve, Gilford selectmen got right down to business as they wrapped up their last meeting for 2009.

Topping the list was a report from Town Administrator Scott Dunn. Dunn told selectmen that an increase of 28.3-percent in health insurance premiums was upsetting the levelly funded budget the town was seeking. In an effort to contain some costs, Dunn approached non-union employees about a bonus program they have had in place that rewarded people for not using sick time. For every three months that an employee did not use sick time, they were given a bonus day, with the potential of receiving five paid days in a year.

"It's sad that we had to do this on the backs of our employees," Dunn said.

The removal of the bonus day program would save the town $54,000. In addition, the Public Works Department's unionized employees agreed to give up the same bonus days, adding an additional $14,000 in savings. The police department, which is also unionized, is still under the bonus day policy at this time, Dunn noted.

Chairman Gus Benavides said he was grateful for the voluntary action taken by the employees.

"I'd like to thank the non-union town employees who gave this up as well as the Public Works Department. We've struggled with this but we're trying to keep the taxes down. We understand the sacrifices the taxpayers have had to make and this was a difficult, difficult decision," said Benavides.

Benavides also took time to publicly thank the DPW for keeping costs down, saying that Gilford was "fortunate" to have such as great department in the town who did an excellent job not just in their work on town infrastructure, but also for their winter plowing.

In a separate tribute to a town employee, the board recognized Danielle LaFond as the recipient of the Caught in the Act award. Sandy Bailey "caught" LaFond in an act that went beyond her regular duties one day when she assisted a senior citizen. LaFond went out to the parking lot and helped the woman place her registration stickers on her vehicle on an extremely cold day.

Benavides said that the board wanted to recognize and show their appreciation for all LaFond does and will continue to do in her employment with the town.

"It is a picture of who you are, going above and beyond to help our citizens," he told her.

Selectmen also voted to accept the resignation of alternate Conservation Committee member Paula MacDonald. Commission Chair John Goodhue said that MacDonald has been a member of the commission for over 20 years and has decided it was time to retire from her role. They voted unanimously to approve the appointment of Diane Hanley in her place. Hanley comes to the town with previous experience from her time as a member of the Laconia Conservation Commission. Selectmen asked that a letter of appreciation be sent to MacDonald, thanking her for her long-standing dedication to the town.

Goodhue also presented a draft proposal for a boat trailer parking plan on Varney Road. The plan will accommodate up to 50 trailers with parking permits, making the job of the Gilford Police Department a lot simpler by knowing who should and should not be parked in the lots. Permitted parking will occur from May through November of each year. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. during the regularly scheduled selectmen's meeting. At that time the board will also hold a hearing to discuss the matter of plowing the Gilford Community Church parking lot.

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