Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon getting ranger

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
August 16, 2006

VERNON - The Town Council agreed Tuesday to formally hire a park ranger - who has been doing the job for 11 years - to patrol the parks and hiking trail network, but not before a lengthy discussion about the new employee's duties.

By an 8-2 vote, the council put the part-time position on the payroll, which will carry a $12 per hour salary, but no fringe benefits.

Republicans Daniel E. Anderson and Brian R. Motola voted against the proposal.

Republican Mark S. Etre and Pauline A. Schaefer were absent from Tuesday's Town Council meeting.

But while a formal park ranger position had not been established before Tuesday night, that doesn't mean the parks and trails hadn't been patrolled.

The town has been contracting with Ray MacMath, who has patrolled town parklands for roughly 11 years, officials said.

MacMath, who will continue working as a part-time town employee, uses town equipment, including an all-terrain vehicle.

The ranger generally has worked 6½ hours each week for a weekly salary of $78, officials said.

As part of his duties, the ranger periodically patrols parks, enforcing regulations and assisting visitors.

In addition to being certified to provide CPR and first aid, MacMath will be empowered to issue tickets to people seen violating town ordinances.

Because he wasn't a town employee, the ranger's ability to issue infraction tickets was compromised, making it necessary to approve the job description, officials have said.

Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said approving the new position also ensured that the ranger would be covered under the town's liability insurance.

But some council members remained concerned about approving the position.

"I'm not in favor of adding additional town employees at this time," Anderson said. "We've had a difficult budget time, a difficult budget cycle."

Republican Bill F. Campbell also expressed concern about a person handing out infraction tickets who is not a member of the Police Department.

As the discussion wore on, Town Council members were surprised to learn from Parks and Recreation Director Bruce W. Dinnie that former Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer apparently had converted the position to a town employee roughly six months ago, absent the necessary Town Council approvals.

Shaffer, who left the town at the end of June to become town manager in Amherst, Mass., had urged the Town Council to create the position.

Soon after that revelation was made, the council voted to formally create the position.

In addition to approving a new park ranger, the Town Council also voted 8-2 to create a part-time ordinance enforcement officer.

The new officer, who will be paid $15 an-hour for a maximum of 19 hours a week, will be responsible for inspecting properties to determine if ordinances relating to trash, junk cars, and maintenance are being obeyed.

The new position raised concerns among some council members, notably Motola and Campbell.

Motola said he wasn't sure if the proposed job description gave the new officer enough autonomy to conduct inspections and issue infraction tickets on his own.

And Campbell said he thought any town employee conducting inspections should be a state building inspector.

Marmer said she would ask Building Inspector Gene F. Bolles to come to the Town Council's Sept. 19 meeting to discuss the new officer's responsibilities.

©Journal Inquirer 2006