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February 5, 2014

Pulaski supervisors balk at $10 wage rate

NEW CASTLE — Two Pulaski supervisors have rejected the $10 per hour granted them by township auditors last month for roadmaster work.

When the supervisors met Monday, Sam Varano said he and Lori Sniezek will not accept the reduced wage but instead explore the possibility of hiring a full-time township manager to do the work.

Varano said he has been working as a facilitator and roadmaster for nine years and Sniezek for seven years. He said they have been paid $14.45 per hour for the last several years for the snowplowing work, done on an as-needed basis.

He added he and Sniezek have gone out many times as “facilitators” to oversee road work and “did it gratis” to save the township money.

He commented he and Sniezek do not begrudge the third supervisor, Greg Carna, the $15.50 per hour the auditors had granted him because he has a commercial driver’s license. But, he added, the majority of the snowplowing work is done with a one-ton truck for which no CDL is needed.

Carna said after the meeting he thinks the auditors were wrong to reduce wages for his fellow supervisors.

Varano said he called the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors for advice and was told the supervisors have two options.

One is to ask the auditors for another meeting to provide documentation and an explanation of why they lowered the wage.

To that end, Varano said, the supervisors wrote a letter to auditors Bruce Clingan and Dan Abramson that township personnel transmitted by mail, certified mail, voicemail and personal delivery. He said they did not respond and there was “no meeting, no explanation and no documentation.”

The other option offered by the association, Varano said, is to hire a township manager to do the roadmaster work.

Varano said it would be a position similar to the one held by Pat Angiolelli in Union Township or Joe Gierlach in Neshannock Township. He estimated wages and benefits would amount to $65,000 or $70,000 per year.

Township Solicitor Richard Harper said another option is challenging the wages in court. He noted there is a legal precedent, set by Union Township, that requires auditors to set a reasonable wage for roadmasters similar to what other area communities pay.

Harper pointed out he could not represent the supervisors, because they would be fighting for their personal wages.

Varano commented he would not hire an attorney to fight for the job that paid him approximately $800 last year.

James Miller, the third township auditor, also made a formal statement during the meeting.

He said Abramson’s and Clingan’s votes to reduce Varano’s and Sniezek’s hourly wages to $10 was “unwarranted and without merit.”

Miller said the hours worked by the supervisors as roadmasters are “minimal” and do not place a financial burden on the township.

“I feel the ... auditors should have honored the supervisors’ request to set all roadmaster wages at $14.45 per hour.”

Miller also noted he did not have an opportunity to cast a vote at the auditors meeting where roadmaster wages were set because it was scheduled for Jan. 15.

He said he had told Clingan and Abramson he would be out of town Jan. 13 to 17 on a work-related seminar required by his employer. He said the two did not return his calls asking that the meeting be scheduled later.

He said he believes auditors meetings should be set at a time to accommodate the supervisors, because their wages are being approved, as well as being convenient for the public.

He noted a 1 p.m. meeting is inconvenient for the supervisors, all of whom have full-time employment outside the township.

Tuesday, Abramson said he had not responded to the supervisors’ request for a second meeting because he didn’t think another session was needed. He said the supervisors would not give him a list of 2013 roadmaster wages unless he filed a formal request for the information and paid per page for the copies.

“If they had been cordial enough to give us the information we asked for, we would have granted them the wages they asked.”

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

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