Malta town board sides with super in highway grievance

The Malta Town Board on Monday, Aug. 3, voted unanimously to uphold Highway Superintendent Thomas Adriance's response to a grievance filed by unionized highway workers.

The grievance cites a June 7 incident in which Working Supervisor Peter Ostrander was called for an overtime job to make repairs to East High Street. The union objected to the fact Ostrander was sent out alone, arguing that two flagmen should have been sent along to direct traffic, as a lane was closed for the work.

In his response, Adriance said there was no need for flagmen since Ostrander was working behind the truck and was in a construction zone during the daytime.

I feel as though nobody's safety was in jeopardy at any time, said Adriance in a later interview. He added that the grievance did not originate with Ostrander.

A similar grievance regarding work on East Line was filed later that month.

According to documents obtained by The Spotlight under a Freedom of Information Law request, there have been three grievances filed in the last several years, all of them in June of 2009 " the other one regarding the fact Adriance, who lost his driver's license earlier this year, moved a grader from the highway garage to a worksite. All but the grievance of June 7 were resolved internally.

According to department worker and Shop Steward Gary Osterhout, both state and federal guidelines advise that in the given situation two flagmen should be used. There is no law governing their use, however, and Councilwoman Sue Nolen said the state Department of Transportation advises that the superintendent has the final say on questionable situations.

"I trust Tom's judgment," said Nolen of Adriance. "He's been our superintendent for many years, and he's also worked for many years."

"If there's no legal mandate to have a flagger out on a job, I'm going to agree with counsel that it's at the superintendent's discretion," said Councilwoman Tara Thomas.

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