Archie’s departure raises questions

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

HARRISON — Questions were raised at the Feb. 26 Harrison Selectmen meeting about the circumstances surrounding the departure of longtime Transfer Station Operator Archie Belanger.

Belanger’s neighbor, Imelda Arris, said during public participation that she and others in town wanted to know why Belanger was no longer working at the station. Belanger had worked at the station for 14 years until leaving in January, and was something of an institution for regular transfer station users.

“I just believe there’s too much secrecy going on. We should be told what’s going on and why,” Arris said, “and Archie should be given a chance to present his side of it.”

Selectman Kathy Laplante, as acting chairman, said the board could not make any statements under state confidentiality laws regarding public employees. Belanger was present at the meeting, but did not speak.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Town Manager George “Bud” Finch said Belanger gave him verbal notice on Jan. 13 that he was “getting done.”

Finch said, “We had a discussion and he chose to move on. That’s all there is to tell you.” He said residents need to be aware that privacy rules prevent the town from commenting further, and hopes they don’t rely on “rumors” or other unsubstantiated claims. Referring to Arris, he said, “She felt that something else must have happened.”

Arris alleged at the meeting that Belanger was coerced into signing a statement of resignation that he did not want to sign, and then was not given a copy of that statement. She said Belanger “should be given a chance to present his side of it,” adding, “There’s two sides to every story.”

Arris then asked about how to go about getting nomination papers, saying she was going to run for selectman in the June elections.

Belanger was such a familiar face at the transfer station that the Harrison Library featured a picture of him, surrounded by junk and reading a book, as part of their 2015 “Men of Harrison” fundraising calendar.

Finch said it’s not unusual for there to be turnover among town employees, saying a highway department worker got done a few months ago. Currently a consultant, Jamie Dayton of Habitat Services, is studying all aspects of transfer station operations, and Finch will be presenting that data, along with recommendations, at a later date.

 

 

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