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Thu., Oct. 8
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Potsdam to implement town employee handbook


POTSDAM - Town officials are assembling a new employee handbook, but some of the rules may not apply to unionized staff.

Supervisor Marie C. Regan said the town never had a comprehensive employee handbook for its employees, and it was time to create one. She presented a draft handbook to the town board at Tuesday night’s meeting. Board members debated the better part of an hour about employee breaks, internet usage, sick leave and other issues.

“We have bits and pieces. We have a harassment policy, violence in the workplace ... It’s not all in one handbook,” she said.

Ms. Regan said crafting a handbook has nothing to do with any problems with employees. The rules need to be in place for new hires, she said.

“It almost makes me feel guilty as if we have a problem and we’re trying to protect ourselves,” she said of the current town employees. “This is a good group.”

“We’re trying to do things that should have been done a long time ago,” she added. “We have a small staff. We haven’t had these problems. It’s good to have this down on paper.”

But Town Attorney Frank Cappello said the town’s unionized employees won’t be subject to the new handbook right away if their current contract’s rules differ. The town’s 12 highway department employees and five of the nine town hall staff are unionized.

“You can’t bind those union employees until they’ve negotiated it and agreed to it,” he said.

Board members then agreed to include the wording “no provisions in this handbook will supercede New York state law or the provisions of union contracts.”

The town board also reviewed a draft ethics code Monday night. The code has not been updated since 1970 and needs to be, Ms. Regan said. No internal problems are sparking the review of the ethics code, she said.

Ms. Regan said now was an opportune time to work on the policies because the town board’s involvement on other projects has let up recently.

The board is expecting to receive final approval from the state Historic Preservation office for rehabilitation work at the old town hall on 35 Market St. within the next 30 days and will put that project out to bid in June. The former town offices will be converted into additional court space.

There are 33 contractors already interested in bidding out some portion of construction work for the new Potsdam Town Hall at 18 Elm St., Ms. Regan said. Contractors will have until the end of a month to submit a bid. Officials expect construction to begin on the new 13,500 square foot town hall later this year.

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