Friday, September 3, 2004
Shorts from the Selectmen, August 10
• Special Town Meeting October 26. The date for Special Town Meeting, originally planned for October 18, will be changed to Tuesday October 26 to allow the committee overseeing the planning and construction of the wastewater treatment plant for the Carlisle Schools to prepare a request for additional funds. The cost of a road to the plant was not included in the original plans. The Town Meeting will also vote on funds for major heating repairs to Town Hall. The Town Election is still planned for November 2, concurrent with state and national elections.
• Town Common Committee. Eunice Knight, Chair of the Town Common Committee, spoke of her committee's goals to "preserve and enhance the Town Common." The committee will look at grading, sodding, tree evaluation, and on-going "organic maintenance." She noted, "Abutters have been very distressed [and fear] dreadful things will happen," But, she promised, "We will preserve the feel as it's always been."
Selectman Deb Belanger noted, "The [Congregational and First Parish] Churches and abutters are very well represented on the committee, but there is no representative at large of townspeople who use the Common." She questioned the committee's opposition to any change, noting older people may prefer the addition of benches, an addition opposed by the committee. There was some discussion of whether the committee should look at the possibility of burying telephone wires, though a proposal some years ago failed at Town Meeting due to costs. A policy for expanding and maintaining town memorials will also be considered.
• Personnel needs at Town Hall. Belanger suggested that the hiring of several part-timers at Town Hall be delayed sixty days until an efficiency evaluation is complete. She asked, "Are committees organized most efficiently? We need to think strategically and cooperatively." She noted the need for coordination of part-time hours, more efficient use of space, and sharing of equipment and staffing. Planning Board Chair Louise Hara questioned the timetable, pointing to the burden of work in September, and wondering if an evaluation could be completed so quickly. "Analysis of each job should be structured and complex. Otherwise you don't do it justice."
Martha Bedrosian of the Board of Health supported a thorough, un-rushed assessment of personnel needs, but pointed out that a sixty-day freeze, added to the time to hire, would mean committees would be four months or more without the needed staff support. PlanningBoard member David Freedman agreed, "Institutions become constipatedThe bigger picture thing needs to be done." But, he warned, more was needed than a sixty-day evaluation. "The things we need to look at go so far beyond hiring issues." He noted committee heads have already begun to meet to discuss streamlining operations. Hult suggested the committees "keep hiring" and everyone continue to "think and talk" about how to approach the efficiency evaluation.
• Quarterly tax bills?. A recommendation to consider quarterly tax billing resulted from Financial Director Larry Barton's request for approval to borrow $2 million to cover town expenses. It has been routine for the town to borrow in late August in anticipation of tax revenue in October, but according to Barton, this borrowing would be unnecessary if tax bills were issued four times a year instead of two. He estimated interest saved on borrowing as well as interest received from earlier cash flow would benefit the town by about $36,600. The cost of additional postage and other billing expenses would be about $14,000, resulting in a net advantage of about $25,000. Other advantages include greater flexibility regarding when tax rates are set, and smaller bills for those who have trouble paying. "It would be easier for them to write four smaller checks than two larger." On the other hand, homeowners would lose some interest by paying earlier. Barton's recommendation will be reviewed when more details are available.
© 2004 The