AUBURN — The Board of Selectmen and Road Agent Mike Dross reached a compromise on new standards for billing invoices for town subcontractors at a special meeting Wednesday afternoon.
The special meeting was called during Monday's regularly scheduled board meeting after many of the subcontractors, including Dross, complained about the Board of Selectmen's decision last month to require more specific invoices.
"The intention here today is to work out a compromise that everyone can be on board with so that invoices can be submitted in a way that tax payers, and myself, can understand," Board Chairman Russell Sullivan said.
Sullivan said that many tax payers say they want more transparency in the vendor invoices so that they have a better idea of what their money is being spent on. As road agent, Dross oversees budgets totaling more than $1 million and in the current year that encompasses more than 30 percent of the total budget. Dross is currently under investigation by local, county and state authorities for allegations of illegal dumping and has on average charged the town more than $100,000 annually as a contractor since becoming road agent in 2006.
The Union Leader has previously run an article examining Dross's invoices for a six month period of time, showing that his invoices almost never detail what his equipment is being used for and by whom, only for how long and where.
At issue for the vendors, Dross said, is that the specificity of the new invoice would force contractors to hire more people, costing the town more money. Dross said that the line on the new invoice asking the names of the operators of the equipment the town is being charged for was the source of much of the vendor's frustration.
A single truck driver can perform many tasks not necessarily involving operating the truck but associated with it so, "If the guy has to stay in the truck, we are going to have to hire an operator, a flagger, a waver and a laborer," Dross said.
Dross also expressed concern that adding more specificity to the invoices would result in resident's questioning the billing of machinery during periods of time that they see it not being used.
As an example, Dross said it wouldn't be fair to vendors to not be able to charge for use of heavy equipment needed to rent and operate other equipment.
"Is it fair to me not to get paid for the truck to help rent and run the dozer, loader or excavator?" Dross asked the board.
"Wouldn't we pay you for running the equipment you rent?" Sullivan responded.
"At $25 an hour, but the truck is $70 or the tri-axel $80, so to take a cut in pay to go rent (a piece of equipment) is not fair to me or anybody else," Dross said.
After saying that they understood some of Dross's concerns, the board decided to remove the requirement that the operator's name be included.
However, the new invoices will still require the date, time and location of work being done and a description of what work is actually being performed, things not included on many previous invoices.
"I just wish you had come to me first before just going ahead with it," Dross told the board after the compromise was reached.