Whitman mulls streamlined bill paying option
WHITMAN — Who should sign on the dotted line?
The Board of Selectmen is seeking more information from Town Counsel Michelle McNulty before designating a member to sign off on payroll warrants.
Chiefly, Selectmen want to know if an alternate can fill that role, or must it be a permanent assignment?
Right now, no fewer than three selectmen must sign each warrant before the town treasurer is authorized to release the funds.
The Municipal Modernization bill, MGL Ch 218 §57, allows a board to designate one selectman to sign the warrants on behalf of the board until it can meet for a vote, Town Administrator Frank Lynam.
“I’m suggesting the board consider this because sometimes it’s difficult to get warrants signed quickly enough to not hold checks for an additional week,” he said. “It would not necessarily change how the board views and approves warrants because the cover page of each warrant would be available to all members at the next meeting.”
Selectmen Chairman Carl Kowalski asked if obtaining the three signatures had ever been an issue. Lynam said it has proved to be so on occasion.
“What the state is recognizing is that, in the normal course of events, many times the selectmen don’t have an opportunity to review some of these things until they meet, and this provides an alternative,” Lynam said. “I’m not suggesting that you necessarily vote it tonight, but you be aware of the option.”
Lynam expressed doubt that a floater would be permitted because the chapter’s language is so particular in reference to “one selectman,” but that McNulty is reviewing it.
Selectman Dan Salvucci had suggested the review because he thought selection of an alternate, could work around vacations.
Lynam said there was always the option of going to the current requirement of three signatures in such a case.
In other business, the board granted the request of Robert Hayes’ Easy Auto Rentals Inc., DBA Auto Towne Truck Sales for a Class II Auto Dealer’s License at 808 Bedford St.
“He’s done a fantastic job at that location,” said Selectman Brian Bezanson. “The building has been transformed into a top-notch place.”
Hayes, who chairs the School Committee, returned the compliment to the Whitman DPW for work repairing frost-heave damage to sidewalks at Whitman schools and WHRHS. His remarks echoed those of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner in a letter to the Board, which Kowalski read aloud.
Hayes said the School Committee had received some hefty bids on the project and that the DPW did the work at a savings to the town of a “substantial amount of money.”
“I think we came out with a better product than we might have done if we had bid it out,” he said.
“They did an amazing job fixing up those walkways,” Lynam agreed.
Hayes also stressed the importance of the strategic plan/budget discussion to which selectmen and finance committees from both towns were invited at the Wednesday, Oct. 12 School Committee meeting.
“The school district is trying to put forward and earlier budget meeting so … more people will come,” he said. “By getting everybody together earlier, it might be easier to understand the total budget and the impact on the towns.”
Selectmen also voted to maintain the $250 per year solid waste fee for fiscal 2017.
Hanson joins Community Compact
HANSON — Selectmen, state Rep. Josh Cutler, Town Hall employees and public safety leaders joined Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito Tuesday, Oct. 11 to celebrate Hanson’s becoming the 236th Commonwealth community to join the Commonwealth Community Compact Best Practices Program.
That means Hanson agrees to implement at least one best government practice outlined under an executive order signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in January 2015 — and brings with it more access to state grant funds.
Hanson town officials hope grants can help with the reuse of the former Plymouth County Hospital site as well as the Main Street Economic Target Area. The program also provides the expertise needed to help communities plan for uses that best suit the community and carries $500 million in MassWorks program for infrastructure improvements and leverages private dollars for investment, as well.
“This [compact] is yours,” Polito said. “No other community in the commonwealth has this kind of structure that you’re looking to reuse, and that’s the beauty of this kind of partnership.”
“We have reached out to the state to ask if we could become a member of the Commonwealth Community Compact,” Town Administrator Michael McCue said in opening the afternoon ceremony Tuesday, Oct. 11. “What the state is so graciously willing to do is lend its expertise — any sort of guidance, any sort of help they can — in a number of different areas.”
Selectmen Chairman James McGahan was working and unable to attend the event.
“The vision that the governor and I had I coming into office, and now in office, is to strengthen Massachusetts through every city and town across our state,” Polito said. “What we knew coming in, as former selectmen … is that the work that you do at the local level — you are on the front lines, literally — where people express their concerns, their frustrations, their hopes for their community. You need all the resources and tools to be able to do your job.”
The Commonwealth Community Compact was intended as a signal from the start that they appreciate local government, Polito said.
“In order for us to be successful, you need to be successful,” she said, listing the release of Chapter 90 funds to improve roads, increase Local Aid and use the Municipal Modernization bill to help local governments do the job.
Best Practices is also intended to strengthen ties between Beacon Hill and town halls, according to Polito.
“You choose to be part of this Community Compact,” she said. “It also needs to be funded. We know, as local officials, that we can’t have any more unfunded mandates. They just don’t work.”
Communities also decide what their priorities will be.
“I think all the towns and cities of Massachusetts appreciate the outreach the administration has done,” McCue said, noting the background both she and Baker bring to the table as former selectmen.
Polito nodded to Cutler in thanking legislators for supporting the program by funding the budget.
“The Baker-Polito Administration has been a terrific partner for municipalities,” Cutler said, noting the Municipal Modernization, or “weed-whacking,” bill the administration supported as well. “This particular [program] for Hanson is so important for economic development.”
He noted that the Plymouth County Hospital site and Route 27 corridor are keys to economic development in Hanson.
“As a Hanson state Rep., I’m delighted to see the town taking this proactive step,” Cutler said after the ceremony. “It’s great to have a lieutenant governor right here in Hanson talking about an issue that’s so important to so many residents, which is the Plymouth County Hospital redevelopment and Main Street.”