WHITMAN — The board of Selectmen on Tuesday, May 28 received an update on municipal finances ahead of the Monday, June 17 special Town Meeting.
The town has $971,546 in available free cash after the debt exclusion was approved in the May 18 Town Election, and $154,674 available in the capital stabilization fund.
The town voted to use free cash to pay the debt associated with a bond, but with the approval of the debt exclusion, $532,000 can be transferred from that appropriation because it can’t be replaced into free cash, Lynam explained.
Selectman Randy LaMattina suggested the board vote to recommend placing $150,000 from free cash back into either the stabilization account, which now holds $2.6 million, or into capital stabilization, which now holds $154,600. Lynam advocated placing another $200,000 into capital stabilization. The board voted to place the $150,000 into capital stabilization to build the fund back up, leaving about $824,000 available for appropriation.
“At that point we will be able to make a determination on what articles to act on and to amend the source be capital stabilization because they are all capital articles,” Town Administrator Frank Lynam said. “Certainly, if we spent all the money we had, we could approve all those articles, but I don’t think that would be a prudent thing to do.”
Lynam said he has spoken to WHRSD and Hanson officials to determine what has been voted by Hanson for school capital projects. He will relay that information to Whitman’s Finance Committee.
He said Whitman would be responsible for $17,946 for the W-H gym floor refinishing; $41,874 for a handicapped ramp at the football field (Hanson approved its share of that work in Oct. 2018); $20,973 for thumb-latches in all interior classrooms at the high school; $14,955 for repairs to the existing fire lane; $59,820 for repair of rooftop units over the performing arts center which have failed and a more expensive temporary system is being used for the remainder of the school year. Hanson had passed over the roof-top units at its Town Meeting. There is also a need to replace lighting, before Green Communities reimbursement, at the Conley and Duval.
An appropriation of $125,622 to repave the high school roadway and $134,595 for resurfacing the track at the high school are being sought as Whitman’s share. There are also articles pertaining to town equipment purchases pending.
“My guess is they’re going to have to be prioritized and it’s unlikely that all these articles will be voted,” Lynam said.
The Collins Center at UMass, Boston, which has been working with the town on both a capital plan and budget model, is working to correct “a number of errors” Lynam flagged before returning the draft document for corrections.
Forest Street resident Shawn Kain has asked to see the draft document, asking whether it is considered a public document.
“I’m not comfortable sending it out, because it’s inaccurate,” Lynam said. “My experience with handing things out while they’re under development is that they typically come back to bite you.”
He told Kain he would discuss it with the board, but preferred to hold it until it was “mostly accurate,” perhaps not before the next draft is received in a week or so.
A capital report has not been received as yet.
Kain asked if the Collins Center report was pubic information. Lynam replied that such reports are not generally considered public until official received by the Board of Selectmen. The Board has not yet received the report.
“It’s not public information yet,” Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski said.
Kain said he would follow up with his concern with the Collins Center, as he argued it should be public.
“This whole process is going to be interactive,” Lynam said. “When they prepare to meet with us on a capital plan, there will be a public meeting, there will be a document presented — presumably, at least to the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee — to begin the analysis and say, does this work, where does it work, how does it work?”
He said the report draft contained misidentified departments and organizational charts.
“I don’t want to release a report like that, because it’s defective,” Lynam said.
“Those are valid discussion points, but to have it open, I think will be helpful,” Kain said.
LaMattina, who described himself as a “transparency guy,” pointed to the numerous draft Article 2s was an example of confusion caused by releasing draft documents.
“If it’s actually wrong, that’s what I don’t want put out there,” LaMattina said. He did, however request that some type of timetable be established to ensure accountability.
John Galvin, a High Street resident, asked about when Selectman Brian Bezanson might present an economic development plan, which was one of his campaign issues, to the board.
Bezanson said he has begun working with Assistant Town Administrator Lisa Green on the “first leg” of the proposal.
“It’s going to take a while to get all the moving pieces together,” he said. “I have to speak with the assessors and the treasurer and collector … to get their opinion on how things are going to go and then speak to state officials on exactly what’s legal and what’s not legal and how we can go forward with this.”
He said he hopes it can go forward as quickly as possible because, “the town needs that kind of money policy.”
In other business, Bezanson said a bronze plaque that had been stolen from the Civil War monument, and was not discovered until the Memorial Day observances. The plaque has been recovered by DPW workers and they will work to replace it, he said.