HANSON — Officials must do a better job of communicating with residents, especially younger people, Selectmen say.
The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Aug. 14, requested that Town Administrator Michael McCue determine methods for improving communication with the public and membership on town boards and committees.
The item was part of a continued review of McCue’s goals and timelines prompted by his request for clarification or feedback on some goals. He also sought more information on the goal for reducing costs and increasing revenues.
Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said she asked for the communication goal because she thought the town should be more active in making appearances on cable access programs or the WHCA community bulletin board and the Express in order to make sure people are aware of town meetings and board and committee vacancies. She said there should also be an effort to drive people to the town’s website.
“I know we’ve struggled with our social media presence, but we must find a way to get information out there where we’re going to reach people,” she said. “We need to engage younger people and we need to reach them where they’re at.”
FitzGerald also argued the effort is important because she wants to see the effort to fill vacancies on town boards and commissions be less difficult.
“I would really like to see such engagement that we’ve got a cross-section of all kinds of people on all these committees and boards so that we’re getting the best and the brightest and all kinds of ideas from across the spectrum,” she said. “The only way we can do that is to educate people.”
That includes a description of duties and estimated time commitment required of members.
McCue said FitzGerald-Kemmett’s explanation was very helpful and he is already mulling ideas.
FitzGerald-Kemmett also suggested some sort of deadline be attached to it to avoid having things put off. McCue said he would be willing to go on WHCA and discuss the needs of town boards and to submit some information to the Express.
Selectman Matt Dyer said he is also concerned how best to get information on the progress committees are making, and communicating needs, to the public on social media without violating the Open Meeting law.
“If we post it on social media is it public record because I’m on the board and now I’m using my official capacity to spread that information?” he asked. “I think if we get some clarification and guidelines on how to use social media to disburse this information, it would help.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett argued there should be a point person in Town Hall, whether it be the incoming IT director or someone else, to act as a conduit to getting information out to the public.
McCue suggested putting together a procedure for department heads to follow in achieving that.
McCue is continuing meetings with East Bridgewater to hire a shared IT director after a person the towns had hoped to bring on board had declined the offer.
Regarding costs and revenues, McCue said the town is “kind of doing that right now” in the auction of tax title properties.
But FitzGerald-Kemmett said it could also be as simple as an idea contest among town employees who may have ideas for more economical ways of doing their jobs.
“I would say that those conversations do take place to a certain degree, every month at our staff meetings,” McCue said, noting his idea was to see if the citizenry had any ideas.
Dyer suggested it could be as simple as placing a comment box or two around town. FitzGerald-Kemmett suggested something along the line of the Commonwealth Connect system Whitman uses where people can take a picture of a pothole or something else that concerns them and uploads it to the town site.
Selectmen also, in the board’s capacity as the body responsible for setting the Town Meeting warrant, voted to place a Housing Authority vacancy on the annual election ballot.
“This is a request and a requirement from the town clerk,” McCue said.
The town is also looking for volunteers to be appointed to the vacancy until the election, especially for those who also want to run for the office next spring.