The ARPA advisory committee meeting began with a call to order and no public comment. First to speak was member Tom Wise, sharing with the committee the models designed to approach the allocation of ARPA funding for hazard pay to Town employees. Notable callouts on the models designed in this approach include defining the length/duration of employment and designation of employment (FTE/PTE) to be considered, as well as duration of work performed in person versus remotely, rate of pay, and community contact/risk as variables in consideration of ARPA funding allocation. The two models can be categorized as payscale, and payscale/risk. There are multiple considerations to be discussed as the ARPA advisory committee moves through the process of allocating these funds equitably and appropriately
Michael Fiorentino and other members from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) spoke to additional categories of essential workers who should be considered for hazard pay, including RMLD, water/sewer employees, and how these folks needed to be on call as opposed to falling into specific categories of, for example, in person work for a certain duration, etc., to move the town through the pandemic season effectively and efficiently. Representatives from the school’s cafeteria workers and fire department also spoke in gratitude to the committee for consideration of pay and spoke to the difficulties they encountered to do their jobs.
The committee then began deliberating on priorities for allocation. Water/Sewer allocation was also discussed as a potential priority, as well as the Birch Meadow project as well as trails committee, historical commission, elder services and town forest allocations, Chamber, rotary, and food pantry allocations were also included and discussed. The committee deliberated through their strategy on how they plan to finalize allocations. A recommendation was made to have all committee members return on September 6th with their final allocation recommendations, and then discussion ensued on the larger, more operational requests, specifically an allocation to water/sewer usage/infrastructure. Shawn Brandt expressed his lack of support for a water/sewer allocation, citing that this would disproportionately benefit only certain residents, while placing funding in more community wide initiatives would benefit all residents. Town Manager, Fidel Maltez, explained that implementing tier rates within water/sewer will create that equity within the community, incentivizing reduced water usage and charging lower rates to those who use less water, and an allocation from available ARPA funds would provide additional rate relief. Chair Marianne Downing also reminded the group that water/sewer capital projects would also be funded with this ARPA allocation, not just rate adjustments.
Extensive deliberation then continued regarding the two models of hazard pay allocation, whether implementing the risk variable makes sense in determining allocations. An informal 4-3 vote was taken with Tom Wise, Marianne Downing, Chris Haley and Geoff Coram supporting Model 2 and Shawn Brandt, Andrew Grimes and Joesph McDonagh supporting Model 1. Vice Chair, Mark Dockser, was absent for the discussion but has previously voiced support for the model 1 variation. That potentially may end up in a 4-4 tie vote for the first time since RAAC was formed.
The committee then discussed future agenda items, reviewed, and approved minutes from the 8/3/2022 meeting, and adjourned until September 6th.