The Block Island Times
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Dave Simmons to resign as Water Superintendent

By Stephanie Turaj | Sep 28, 2012

The Sewer and Water commissions were about to discuss their first agenda item on Sept. 26, the compensation of current water superintendent Dave “Gravy” Simmons while he aids Chris Blane into the transition of interim Sewer Superintendent, when Simmons made an announcement: He is resigning in two months to accept a new position in Kent County, R.I.

“I just found out yesterday,” said Simmons, explaining that he will be a project engineer for a start-up plant in Kent County, and it is a position he can not pass up.

The commissioners congratulated Simmons on his new role, and commended him for his years of service and success at the water plant.

Simmons’ announcement comes just as current Sewer Superintendent Ray Boucher will retire effective Oct. 1. The commissions have spent months preparing for this transition, in which Sewer Principal Operator Chris Blane will serve as interim Sewer Superintendent for the next six months.

The rest of the meeting involved finalizing a few details of Blane’s new role. Commissioners reviewed the Sewer Superintendent Work Contract, and Blane requested one wording change and the correction of a typo. He also suggested that he keep his current health benefits, as he is happy with them — the contract’s draft instead included Boucher’s health plan options. The commission approved the contract with these changes.

The commission also approved a request by Blane to compensate him for 40.5 hours of unused vacation time — hours that he was not able to take off because of busy demands from the plant, and that he will not use due to his new role.

Despite commissioners maintaining that vacation compensation was only fair for these reasons, there were two objections to compensating Blane. Town Clerk Terri Chmiel, from the audience, noted that employees have a year to plan to take off vacation time. McNerney said that if Blane had left the island for vacation, it would not have been in the best interest of the plant and town. “It was for the benefit of all that he stayed and worked, so we really didn’t give him an opportunity to exercise his vacation time,” said McNerney.

Cathy Payne, also from the audience, said paying Blane for unused vacation time is “obscene.” She took issue with what she said were high sewer rates, and said she did not agree that the ratepayers should be responsible for paying this.

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