Panton consolidating two town office jobs into one

PANTON — The Panton selectboard has decided to consolidate its two main town office jobs into one position and is now advertising for one person to serve both as a treasurer and town clerk, posts now held by Diane Merrill and Jean Miller, respectively.
Merrill, a Vergennes business co-owner who according to selectboard Chairman Howard Hall plans to resign before the end of August, now holds a 20-hour-a-week job in town hall, while Miller works 32 hours a week as clerk.
Hall said Merrill told the board that 20 hours a week is not adequate for a post that must process payroll, pay bills, keep the town in compliance with a number of grants, handle road department paperwork, and send out tax bills, among other tasks.
Hall said the board concluded that a 40-hour-a-week treasurer/clerk could handle the workload, most likely with a part-time assistant.
“We seem to spend a preponderance of our man hours in the position of treasurer, and not an extended amount in the position of clerk,” Hall said. “Diane is saying 20 hours was not a sufficient amount of time to accomplish all the goals that she needed to do.”
Miller has served as Panton Town Clerk since November 2011. When Panton changed its charter in 2014 to make its town clerk and treasurer appointed, not elected, positions, Panton selectboard members praised the work of Miller and the town’s former treasurer.
Hall said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on a personnel matter, but that the board would welcome Miller’s application.
“She has an opportunity to apply for these positions,” he said.
Hall said the selectboard considers the change to be a “reorganization” to make the town run more efficiently, and he could foresee the person hired as treasurer/clerk spending up to 32 of a 40-hour week on financial matters.
“These are really hard decisions for the selectboard,” he said. “It’s something we don’t take lightly. A lot of thought process went into this. We saw this as an opportunity, and saw this as something the town needed to improve on.”
There are no minutes that directly reflect the decision-making process, but the board met behind closed doors to discuss personnel matters for 48 minutes on June 13 and for 45 minutes on June 27. On July 11 the board agreed to begin advertising for “the Panton Town Clerk/Treasurer position.”
Hall said the selectboard has several responses in hand and will discuss at its meeting on Wednesday night how and when to proceed with interviews. The board hopes to have someone in place by September.
The new hire’s 40 hours could include one night a week in which the office remains open until 7 p.m. to allow residents to come in after typical working hours to obtain hunting or dog licenses or conduct other business at the clerk’s office, said Hall.
“What we’re doing is looking to get more flexibility out of the employee,” he said. “That’s what this really does.”

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