School repairs headed to voters
By Tracy F. Seelye, Express editor
HANSON — In a meeting marked by acrimony on the part of some residents over the resignation of a recently hired town accountant, the Board of Selectmen’s focus Tuesday, Aug. 26 was placement of nearly 40 articles on the warrant for the Monday, Oct. 6 special Town Meeting.
The board voted to close the warrant, but took no votes on whether or not to recommend the placed articles, which will be done at a September meeting after dollar amounts are nailed down.
Five of the articles center on needed repairs at the Maquan and Indian Head Elementary schools, as well as to reimburse the School District for repairs already completed as immediate needs. Seven public safety articles deal with equipment and technology upgrade requests at the police and fire department along with financial housekeeping and articles from the highway and planning departments.
But the Indian Head roof and the process for determining and funding the project cost engendered the bulk of discussion.
Selectman Bruce Young, who spoke with fellow board members via speakerphone, said he wants to see a debt exclusion article to place the issue on a special election ballot. Young is recuperating at home from an illness.
“We’re looking for a separate election so the people can gear just on these particular issues,” said Young, adding he does not want to see the question lost amid the other votes on a general election ballot. “What I’m picturing is a possible roof, the [window] lintels and combined with the safety and security of the Maquan School.”
The Maquan security locks are already the focus of one of the articles proposed by the School Committee [see related story], but Young is aiming at a package approach to all three needs.
Town Administrator Ron San Angelo suggested that Young and School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes meet “to figure out how they want to move forward on this.”
Most residents attending the meeting, however, seemed more interested in the details surrounding the resignation of Town Accountant Kimberly Brown. Selectmen voted 4-0 to approve contracting with Financial Advisory Associates for accounting services to get the town through the October Town Meeting. The town has used the firm in the past.
While he did not object to the hiring of the temporary firm, resident Richard Hickey questioned, “how we arrived at this juncture.”
“The members of the town deserve to know exactly what’s been going on since February,” he said. “It’s quite reasonable for any slightly informed person to conclude that the town accountant was not the least bit qualified to begin with.”
Hickey said that, under the Town Administrator Act, San Angelo is responsible for reporting to Selectmen and the Finance Committee on the financial health of the town.
“You are 100-percent responsible for a bad hire,” Hickey said. “You failed in those responsibilities by not supervising … We’re talking about you, not her.”
San Angelo replied he does take responsibility for the hire, which he based on a résumé, interview and recommendation from another community where she also worked part time.
“That’s why we have a probation period,” he said. “I truly wish that I had a crystal ball and every time I hired an employee it’s going to be the greatest employee we ever had — it’s sad that is not the case.”
He explained the resignation was submitted after going over the results of an audit with the accountant, while declining to say whether one had to do with the other. He also stressed the town has sustained no financial harm.
San Angelo said Finance Committee Chairman Barbara Arena wrote a letter in support of Brown and the work she did.
Selectman Chairman David Soper said personnel regulations prohibit more being said on the matter.
“What’s the deal?” asked resident Iris Morway. “A little transparency — I think the community’s entitled to that.”
In other business, San Angelo read a report from state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, which included the announcement that weekend commuter rail service will likely be returning to the area in October.
“It looks like they got money into the [state] budget and it’s back,” San Angelo said. “They’re working on the details of that, but they’re expecting in October-ish to look at restoring that service.”