Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon town administrator to hand in resignation

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 3:13 PM EDT

VERNON — Town Administrator Christopher Clark says he’ll resign today after signing a contract Monday with the Massachusetts town of Southbridge to be that town’s manager.

His contract with Vernon demands 30 days notice, so Clark’s last day of work here will be Aug. 15. He will start his new job just north of the state border on Aug. 18.

The Southbridge Town Council unanimously ratified the three-year contract at its Monday meeting.

Clark, 42, who lives in Sturbridge, has been Vernon’s town administrator for the last two years.

“It’s kind of a difficult time — I’ve made a lot of friends here in Vernon. It’s a great town and a great organization,” Clark said today. Vernon “has been good to me, but sometimes you have to weigh things out, and family considerations do take precedence — it’s easy to say, but harder to live by.”

Clark has been negotiating with Southbridge officials since he was formally chosen for the job last month.

Consensus was reached late last week on the terms, which are in line with what he’s making here.

The three-year contract dictates a base salary of $127,050, with 3 percent increases in years two and three.

The previous Southbridge town manager, Clayton Carlisle, earned $117,000 annually.

Clark started in Vernon at a salary of $110,000, and is now making $113,300 per year.

A 3 percent increase for all non-union employees is on tonight’s Town Council agenda. Should it pass, Clark’s salary would increase to $116,600.

He also receives a $4,160 annual car allowance in Vernon.

The biggest difference between the two contracts is insurance premiums. In Southbridge there’s a 50 percent contribution compared with Vernon’s 5 percent, which translates to roughly $8,500 in cash. The new contract is meant to compensate for that, Clark said.

Southbridge also offered Clark the option of either a $500,000 life insurance policy or $2,000 in cash. He chose the money as he already has a policy.

He’ll also receive four weeks vacation per year, with the option to cash out two if not taken.

Clark, who has taken only five days vacation since starting work in Vernon, is losing 15 unused days for which he can’t be compensated.

He is sure to save on gas with the new job, however. Clark says he never minded the 30-minute daily commute to Vernon, but happily, Southbridge town hall is a mere 5 miles from his front door.

Clark says he’s proud of his two years in Vernon, and feels like he left his mark.

“I’m actually very happy — I obtained almost $4 million in grants for the community and there are others in process that are probably $2.5 to $3 million more where the applications are pending and most certain to come through,” Clark said.

Major roadway projects were also undertaken, including Village and High streets with a grant for Prospect Street in the hopper.

Among those projects completed under his tenure is the long dormant Central Park and third-floor Town Hall renovations.

After constant stops and starts, Central Park was completed late last summer while the top floor of town hall, abandoned during the 1980s, is set to open mid-August.

“That’s one part that I really like, too,” Clark said of his time here in Vernon. “When I came to this community I constantly heard that nothing gets done in time, and I came in with the full intention of completing grants and moving projects forward.”

The Town Hall renovation will be bittersweet.

The project, which includes new Town Council Chambers and new, larger offices for the mayor and town administrator in the Victorian-era structure, started eight years ago. Clark, who acted as project manager and clerk of the works for the renovation, says he won’t mind not moving into the more spacious digs.

But he was hoping to preside over the first council meeting in the new space. He leaves on Aug. 15 and the council’s inaugural meeting on the third floor will take place on the 19th.

“I take tremendous pride in that third floor — we did it on budget with good practices,” he said, adding that the projects cost “almost $1.5 million, and virtually all of it was state money.” The only town money spent went to pay for the furniture and design, which came to roughly $70,000 total.

Still, “it feels good to be able to say it’s done.”

“But what I’ll miss most here are the people in Vernon,” he said.

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