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October 25, 2016
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Damascus creates and fills Operations Supervisor position

DAMASCUS, PA — At its January 20 meeting, the Damascus Township Board of Supervisors amended the township’s personnel manual to include a job description for Township Operations Supervisor. That position, if approved by the board of auditors, will combine the duties of the former supervisor of highways position and the administrative functions formerly performed by the chairman of the board of supervisors into one full-time (40-plus hours per week) job.

The amendment reads in part: “This position is for an elected Damascus Township supervisor to oversee the daily operations of the township, and to ensure that the direction of the Board of Supervisors are adopted and carried out by the employees of the township. The person holding this position will meet with the employees/staff on a frequent basis; assist them in resolving issues, prioritizing goals and objectives, and take concerns to the Board of Supervisors for review and further action[s].”

The reading of the amendment drew an immediate barrage of questions and criticism from the public present. Questions raised concerned exact responsibilities of the proposed job, the salary attached to it, and from what revenues that salary would be paid. The board responded by saying that the position must first be approved by the Damascus Township Board of Auditors, who will also determine an appropriate salary. The salary figure will be based on several factors, the description of job parameters and township demographics among them. When asked point blank how the board would handle an inordinately high salary figure, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey Dexter said that the board could abolish the position as quickly as it had recommended creating it. He also noted that the position would be for one year only, conditioned on appointment/reappointment at each year’s reorganization meeting.

Following approval of the amendment, the board nominated newly elected supervisor Steve Adams to fill the position described in it. Answering a charge from the public that this was merely replacing a hands-on job with a bureaucratic one, Adams said, “I’m doing this because it’s a job that needs to be done, not because I need a job. Believe me, I don’t need it.” In a dry aside to all within earshot, supervisor Joe Canfield observed, “He’s been doin’ the job for over two weeks now for no pay.”

Adams went on to justify the need for the position, to describe how he envisioned its primary responsibilities, and to explain how the salary could be cost effective. He recognized, first of all, that the supervisor of highways position combines elements of supervisory and administrative duties. And he sought to reassure the skeptical that he would still be plowing, sanding, inspecting and repairing equipment, and otherwise getting his hands dirty. But he will be orchestrating various planning, ordering, and maintenance operations as well. And, although all township employees (highway department and administrative staff) are hired by the board, they will ultimately be accountable to Adams.