Officials and state workers meet to discuss worries about Barre
BARRE — State and city officials met with Agency of Education employees Tuesday to address some of the workers’ concerns about moving to downtown Barre, including the city’s crime rate.
Steve Howard, who is the co-interim executive director of the state employees union, said some workers are concerned that when the agency moves to City Place those who work late at night could be in danger when walking to their vehicles.
The proposed parking lot for the employees, a lot owned by Mayor Thomas Lauzon, is 700 feet from the building at City Place’s farthest exit.
Lauzon said he had Chief Tim Bombardier look into the city’s crime rate according to the Vermont Criminal Information Center and found that the crime rate per capita in Barre is lower than in other municipalities such as Montpelier, St. Johnsbury, Burlington and Rutland.
“That’s not to cast aspersions on anyone. That’s just saying what the facts are,” Lauzon said Wednesday.
He said in the last 10 years, the city has had no instances where a person had “jumped out of the bushes” and assaulted or robbed someone.
“If something like that was happening every week in our downtown, first of all it wouldn’t be happening every week in our downtown. We’d step up patrols and put a stop to it,” Lauzon said.
To help ease the employees’ concerns, Lauzon said he would work with Bombardier to see if it would be possible to send a police cruiser to patrol the area from 4 to 5 p.m., when most of the employees would be getting out of work. As for stepping up patrols in the area at night for late workers, Lauzon didn’t see it as necessary.
He suggested those who work later into the night move their vehicles closer to the building after everyone else leaves, as there are 50 parking spots in a well-lighted area only 25 feet from the building.
Lauzon said he was happy to have the meeting to help clear up some of the concerns.
“The city of Barre has the opportunity to host the Vermont Agency of Education. It’ll be good for our downtown. ... What I promised them is we will be good hosts,” he said.
The Vermont State Employees Association’s Howard said another concern is the workspace itself. Howard said the proposed layout of an “open office” with cubicles with half-walls instead of actual offices could be problematic as employees may have to have conversations about Vermont students that are supposed to be confidential.
“Our members are experts on what kind of workspace they need to be the most efficient,” he said, adding he hoped the administration would take the employees’ concerns into account. Howard said a future meeting between the workers and the administration will be planned to hash out exactly what the issues are and what can be done about them, but a date has yet to be set.
Howard said the employees moving to Barre are trying to avoid a situation that state workers in the National Life Group building in Montpelier are experiencing. Howard said because of new office designs in that building, some employees have to take phone calls in the hallway just so they can hear above the noise in the “open office” layout.
“We’re trying to learn from the lessons of National Life and apply that to this project in Barre,” Howard said.
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