BELLOWS FALLS -- The trustees of the Rockingham Free Public Library opted on Tuesday not to appeal the benefits terminated library director Celina Houlne is receiving.
The board of trustees voted 5-2 against a motion to send the Vermont Department of Labor an appeal of the unemployment benefits being paid to Houlné, who was fired by the trustees in September. Trustees Laura Senes, Elayne Clift, Carolyn Frisa, Ray Massucco and Pat Fowler opposed the motion while Hope Brissette, who made the motion, and Deborah Wright voted in favor of it. Trustee Chairwoman Janice Mitchell-Love did not vote and Trustee Paige Pietrzak was not present.
Houlne's termination has been a source of controversy both within the town of Rockingham and among the trustees themselves.
On Tuesday, Mitchell-Love said she received an e-mail from Municipal Manager Willis "Chip" Stearns II asking if the trustees wished to appeal the benefits. The motion was made and seconded before Clift -- who along with Frisa, Massucco and Fowler also opposed Houlne's termination -- asked why the trustees were being so unnecessarily mean to Houlne, who she feels was unjustly fired.
Fowler asked what would be the point of an appeal. Mitchell-Love said many employers don't give unemployment benefits to terminated employees, but Fowler said she did not believe that could be done in Vermont. Wright said there are certain instances where it can be done.
The trustees, earlier in the meeting, chose to table the issue of the job posting for the library director position. Mitchell-Love said the board's personnel committee spent Monday fleshing out all the individual categories of the job description for a replacement library director. The draft job description from the trustees' personnel committee (Mitchell-Love, Pietrzak and Senes) had differed considerably from that of Librarians Sam Maskell and Emily Zervas. Clift requested more time to take an in-depth look at the personnel committee's work, calling the job description "a very serious thing."
The trustees voted to recess the meeting until Tuesday so members of the board could attend a joint meeting of the Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees and the Rockingham Selectboard, which were meeting to decided whether to send a merger plan to a public vote. The plan will not go before the citizenry.
In other business:
-- Zervas briefed the trustees and the public on the library's holiday fundraiser. She said people can "adopt" a magazine subscription, DVD or audiobook and donate it in honor or in memory of someone special. Each adopter will get an ornament with a picture of what they have donated to place on a tree. She said the fundraiser will be held until the end of the year.
-- During the public comment portion of the meeting, Bellows Falls resident Doug MacPhee asked the trustees to consider raising the yearly library fees of non-resident members. He said non-residents pay $50 per year, while village taxpayers contribute at least $100. He said raising the fees for non-residents could help subsidize the costs the taxpayers are paying.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.