By Daymond Steer
MADISON — Residents at Saturday's town meeting decided they'd rather have the selectmen appoint a director of public works than continue electing a road agent every three years.
Town meeting was held at the elementary school, and 117 people registered to receive a paper ballot, a turnout of 6.4 percent.
In Article 11, selectmen asked to rescind the actions of the 1987 town meeting, which called for electing road agents to a three-year term, by having the selectmen appoint a full-time director of public works in 2018, after the term of Road Agent William Chick Sr. expires.
Chick has held that post for 29 years.
The vote was 81-24, and voting was done by secret ballot.
In a phone interview last week, selectman's Chair Josh Shackford said selectmen have limited oversight of an elected road agent.
Also, an elected road agent must come from Madison, while an appointed road agent can come from anywhere. He stressed that Article 11 was not about getting rid of Chick.
Shackford, reached Monday, was pleased with the result.
"I think it went really well," said Shackford about town meeting. "Everybody gave Billy a round of applause."
Shackford, who was re-elected on Saturday after running unopposed, said he will not be chair after the selectmen's meeting Tuesday as it will be John Arruda's turn to be chairman. Shackford said he thinks that the board will start looking around for a public works director in January.
"We want to hire the right person for Madison," said Shackford.
Previous efforts failed. In 2007, a warrant article looking to have an appointed road agent failed 65-61. The following year, an article to create the position of highway operations administrator and to fund it with $15,000 failed by hand vote at town meeting. A warrant article for an appointed highway agent also failed 95-72 that year.
In 2012, an appointed highway agent proposal failed 93-48. Meeting minutes show that most of the past articles were filed by petition and or had the recommendation of selectmen.
Selectmen did not weigh in on the 2012 article because at the time they did not make recommendations on petitioned articles that didn't contain appropriations. The 2008 article regarding the highway administrator appears to have been filed by selectmen.
According to 2017 town meeting minutes published to the town's website Monday, Chick spoke against the article, saying that the "will of the people is important."
Marcia Shackford said Chick would be "sorely missed" after he retires but added a public works director position could handle more duties than are specified in the legal description of what a road agent does, according to minutes.
Sepp Meier said he opposed "consolidation of power" under the selectmen.
Arruda said selectmen already oversee the fire and police departments and they have no desire to micromanage the highway departments.
Last March 25, Chick Sr., then 64, was charged by Carroll County Sheriff's Office with assaulting Michael LaClair, a road crew worker, after LaClair had a rollover accident in a town truck on West View Drive.
Chick was fined approximately $600 in May 2016 in Conway circuit court after pleading guilty to assaulting LaClair.
Chick couldn't be reached for comment on this story.