Selectboard Correspondence: Input for Town Manager Evaluation


To the Norwich Selectboard:


In light of your upcoming review of our Town Manager's performance I'd like you to hear one citizen's report of dealing with Neal Fulton, the Selectboard, and our Public Works Department on a single issue; controlling the spread of Poison Wild Parsnip by developing a roadside mowing policy to prevent further spread of this noxious weed.



Here's a chronology:



On July 9, 2012 I sent an e-mail message to Neil Fulton suggesting the Town educate itself on the effects of roadside mowing as it pertains to the spread of Poison Wild Parsnip and also inquiring as to what the Town had for a mowing plan.



On July 10, 2012 I received an e-mail reply from Neil Fulton indicating that he had asked the Conservation Commission for their thoughts on my concerns. The Consrvation Commission reportedly did not receive such a request from Neil Fulton.






On July 10, 2012 I telephoned Neil Fulton's office and left a message. I also telephoned Andy Hodgdon's office and left a message there. Neither of them returned my calls or e-mails sent in the following days.





On July 25, 2012 Because I did not get any reply from the Town Manager I attended a Selectboard meeting and voiced my concerns about our roadside mowing schedule and practices as they pertain to Poison Wild Parsnip. Neil Fulton was on holiday, Phil Dechert was serving in his place. I was told by the Selectboard at that meeting that, in effect, it was not the Selectboard's job to deal with issues like roadside mowing. The Selectboard Chair assured me that someone would get back to me to let me know what the Town's plan for roadside mowing would entail.





On July 25, 2012 Steve Flanders sent me a short e-mail quoting the Vermont statutes that lay out Town Manager and Selectboard duties, and also another statue explaining that the Town Manager is the Road Commissioner.





On July 26, 2012 Phil Dechert phoned me to tell me he had talked with andy Hodgdon and that Andy was aware of the problem but had not developed a plan other than mowing later in the fall. Phil told me Neil Fulton would phone me when he returned from holiday. That phone call never came.





On July 30, 2012 I received an e-mail message from Christopher Ashley telling me that after he learns the response to my question about changing the mowing operation, then he would phone me. That phone call never came.





April 4, 2013 I sent an e-mail message to Andy Hodgdon with some links to on-line resources that discuss how to deal with Poison Wild Parsnip by developing roadside mowing strategies. Andy replied with a thank-you and informed me he was in the final stages of developing a policy that dealt with roadside invasives.





On September 11, 2013 The Town Highway Department mowers proceed to mow along Beaver Meadow Road. There are several areas along the whole length of Beaver Meadow with heavy infestations of Poison Wild Parsnip, which by this time of year have gone to seed. Later that afternoon the mowers turn up Tucker Hill Road onto Bragg Hill Road without cleaning out their mowing maachines. I encounter Andy Hodgdon on Bragg Hill Road where he tells me "Wild Parsnip is not an invasive," "mowers don't spread Wild Parsnip" and "if it gets too bad we can spray it." Andy Hodgdon then agreed not to mow Bragg Hill Road.





On September 11, 2013 I phoned Neil Fulton to report what I've just seen and heard and to express my concerns. Neil tells me "I'll talk with Andy," "Wild Parsnip is not on the invasives list, but to me it's an invasive," and "I haven't been out Beaver Meadow Road this summer."





On September 12, 2013 I receive two phone calls from Andy Hodgdon agreeing not to mow anywhere he sees Poison Wild Parsnip, and later phones to let me know he had driven the roads in Town to survey where there were infestations of Poison Wild Parsnip.





On September 12, 2013 I phone Neil Fulton and leave a message. There is no return call from Neil Fulton.





On September 13, 2013 I phone Neil Fulton again and leave another message. Again there is no return call from Neil Fulton.





On September 24, 2013 I phone Neil Fulton and leave a message. This time Neil Fulton returns my call. Neil Fulton explained "Andy said he talked to you so I didn't feel I needed to phone you back." When I inquired about whether or not there was a Town policy for dealing with Poison Wild Parsnip, Neil Fulton replied "we will not mow when Wild Parsnip is in seed," "we will carry brooms and spray on the mowers to clean them." When I inquired about whether or not this policy was in writing, Neil Fulton impatiently replied "I won't put it in writing, I just told you our policy." When I suggested that since he was also the Road Commissioner in Norwich he was in a position to institute a formal policy and put it in writing, to this Neil Fulton raised his voice to me and said "forget about the Road Commissioner, it's a statutory position and doesn't exist in Norwich."  I inquired "Then we don't have a Road Commissioner in Norwich?" Neil Fulton then raised his voice again and abruptly ended the phone call, stating that "I'm not going to argue about it."





I have put a lot of effort into trying to stop the spread of Poison Wild Parsnip in Norwich and I feel there has been a high level of disrespect from our Town's governance towards my efforts. But beyond that, in light of the conversation that took place over the phone on September 24, 2013 with Neil Fulton, and his rude and disrespectful replies and attitude towards me during that call, plus his repeated lack of response to my prior phone messages and e-mails, I am hoping my experience with Neil Fulton is considered when you conduct a review of his performance.


And finally, why do we provide funds, a lot of funds in fact, for a vehicle for the Town Manager if he doesn't travel the roads of Norwich on a regular basis? If he's not the Road Commissioner as he stated to me, and if he hadn't traveled out Beaver Meadow Road all summer in 2013 as he also stated to me, then his need for re-imbursement for miles driven on Town business would also be greatly reduced. The IRS allows $.56 per mile for business miles driven, I suggest we follow that rate and adjust the Town Manager's vehicle allowance accordingly to reflect the actual miles he drives on Town business.



Thanks for reading!



Harry Roberts



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