By Mike Melanson
HANSON — Town Administrator Ronald San Angelo said he plans to offer selectmen monthly written and verbal reports on the town’s finances, at the request of board members.
On Tuesday Sept. 9, Selectmen Chairman David Soper said board members want more financial information and data in a more timely and succinct manner.
San Angelo said monthly financial statements have not been presented to selectmen as routine business in years, since before his time as town administrator. Selectmen sign warrants and see bills. San Angelo said he provides audits to the board and budget information during budget season.
“We do provide a lot of information at times as needed, but there hasn’t been a monthly report,” he said.
San Angelo said he gives monthly expense reports to the finance board, and said he would provide the report to selectmen too. The reports include spending on capital items, he said.
“If any board member ever has a question about a particular finance item, my office door is always open. It is never closed,” he said. “We’re willing to give you what you want.”
San Angelo said his concern now is for the town’s free cash amount to be certified by the state Department of Revenue in time for the Oct. 6 Special Town Meeting, which includes warrant articles that draw on free cash.
Interim Town Accountant Todd Hassett said he has filed balance sheets and schedules with the DOR to be certified as free cash.
Hanson is in the top 25-percent of communities in getting their balance sheets in. The DOR guideline is for them to be in by Sept. 15, and the town is ahead of that by a week, he said.
Hassett said Hanson has approximately $1.8-million in free cash.
San Angelo said he plans to submit expense reports to selectmen once a month, during the second selectmen meeting of the month.
Selectman Bruce Young asked if San Angelo could also present information on receivables that could affect free cash in his reports, and the town administrator said he would do so.
Selectman William Scott said he would like for San Angelo to offer a verbal report and synopsis of what is going on in the town that selectmen should know about to go along with the written financial reports.
“I think we should do something once a month. If that’s what we’re going to do, I’m OK with it,” he said.
In other action Tuesday, selectmen voted, 5-0, to allow remote participation by board, committee and commission members at town government meetings.
Members of boards who cannot attend meetings because of illness or business out of state may now participate in meetings, and deliberate and vote by telephone or video conference.
Under state law, selectmen may vote to allow remote participation, but it must be allowed for all town boards, committees and commissions, San Angelo said.
The board chairman must notify those in attendance at the beginning of a meeting if a member plans to participate remotely, and it should be included in meeting postings and agendas if the board knows about the need for it ahead of time, he said.
The law requires that a clear communication device must be used and that all board and audience members must be able to hear what is being said, he said.
San Angelo said most of the town hall meeting rooms have phones, and would allow for remote participation. Other meetings might be more complicated, such as Hanson boards meeting jointly with boards from other towns in meeting rooms in other towns.
“Ninety-nine percent of our meetings, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” he said.
Soper said remote participation is not an opportunity for townspeople to call into meetings.
He said there must still be a quorum of board members present in the meeting room in order to allow remote participation, and that the policy would be posted on the town website.
“I think it’s a good idea,” he said.
San Angelo said remote participation is not for board members who simply do not feel like going to town hall to attend a meeting.
“There must be a legitimate reason. That’s in the regulations,” he said.
If there is remote participation in a meeting, all votes must be roll call votes. If participating remotely in an executive session, a board member may have no one else in the room where the call is made from, he said.
Selectman James McGahan said he believes allowing remote participation makes sense.
Town Meeting recommendations
Selectmen Tuesday also voted board recommendations on a series of more than 40 warrant articles to be presented to voters at Special Town Meeting on Oct. 6.
Selectmen voted to recommend requests by the police chief for $17,750 for technology upgrades for police, $4,400 for protective and safety clothing for officers, $4,500 for tire deflation devices known as Stop Sticks, and $11,000 for rifles.
The board also recommended requests by the fire chief for $16,000 for Main Street fire station maintenance, $240,000 for a Mini-Pumper, $36,500 for protective clothing, and $10,000 for relocation of floor drains in connection with a fire station septic repair project.
Selectmen are recommending articles to name the playground on Hancock Street in honor of Army Sergeant James Francis “Red” Harrington, who was killed on April 8, 1951 while serving in Korea, and for $1,200 to provide a marker for the memorial park.
Also recommended was a request for $83,000 to reimburse the Whitman-Hanson Regional School District for emergency repairs to the Indian Head and Maquan schools.
Selectmen held a recommendation on a request for funds to replace locks, keys and corridor doors at the Maquan School until building repair committee and school administrators determine costs.
The board held on a request for $55,000 to install an indoor ventilator in the Maquan School offices until they get the results of an air quality study.
Also held were requests to fund the development of public bid documentation and rehabilitation or replacement of the slate roof, and the repair or replacement of the cafeteria and office floors at the Indian Head School. There were no cost estimates Tuesday, selectmen said.
Selectmen placed and recommended a request to create a regional schools capital stabilization fund for capital projects at the Hanson school buildings and the regional high school. Funds would be expended by Town Meeting. The board also recommended that Town Meeting voters on May 6 put $10,000 into the fund.
Selectmen placed an article to repair Indian Head School roof, and another article that would replace the roof, but held on making recommendations on the proposals.
The board also placed an article to replace window lintels at the Indian Head School, but held recommendation because there is no cost estimate.
San Angelo said all warrant articles are subject to the availability of free cash. If free cash is limited or not available, selectmen would need to re-prioritize recommendations on articles, he said.
Soper said the free cash figure is important.
“If we don’t get the money, we won’t be able to make it happen,” he said. “Here’s hoping to hope that we have enough free cash to cover the bills.”
Selectmen approved a Historical Society request for a common victuallers license in connection with the annual Harvest Festival, to be held Sept. 20, with a Sept. 21 rain date.