HANSON – Town officials took another step on Tuesday, March 15 to control after-hours access to Town Hall. The cards had replaced keys recently after years of a laissez-faire approach to tracking who in town had possession of keys got out of hand.
One badge will now be provided to each board or commission that holds regular meetings in Town Hall, issues to the chairman who will, in turn, be held responsible for making sure the building is locked after meetings.
Hanson IT director Steve Moberg urged Selectmen to revoke the key card fobs for some boards and commissions after an unknown person was recently discovered in the building after hours.
“We’re taking a lot of these things away so we can have accountability for who’s coming in and out of the building,” Moberg told Selectmen.
Visitor badges will be available to them through the Selectmen’s office.
“It’s more for accountability, so we know what’s going on in this building after hours,” he said describing the incident. “I was here late one night, and it was after a meeting that got out, maybe about 9-ish. I heard somebody go up the stairs and was up there for a little while. I thought it was a town employee … so I poked my head out [when he later heard them come down the stairs] and it was somebody I had no idea who they were.”
He said the person had been upstairs for about 45 minutes rummaging around the hallways.
Board and committee members planning a meeting need only call the Selectmen’s office to determine the availability of a meeting room and make arrangements to obtain a visitor’s card, which can be returned by dropbox.
A button-activated camera, like a Ring doorbell camera system, allows Moberg and custodian Charles Baker to receive the video and communication with a caller on their phones through which they can unlock the door if the caller has a legitimate reason for accessing the building.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had instances of meetings [being held] in the building and then the doors being open all night,” Town Administrator Lisa Green said. “This process alleviates all of the doors being open and the possibility of them being left open all night.”
She said they are trying to move away from a situation where so many people are in possession of the little blue keycard fobs, that accountability is lost – the situation that had existed with keys before the access cards were adopted.
“We’re making it as easy as possible to get [visitor cards] and drop them off,” she said. “We currently have one that’s out that hasn’t been returned to us yet.”
She asked Selectmen for their opinion on the matter.
“I do like us reining it in,” Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “That’s clearly overdue.”
But she noted it is already difficult for some boards to attract volunteers to serve, suggesting the doors be pre-programmed for access by current board members. Beyond that, people would have to check in for a visitor’s pass.
Selectman Jim Hickey agreed with FitzGerald-Kemmett, that regular committee meetings could be accommodated that way.
Selectmen Chairman Matt Dyer agreed that one access card should be made available to the four or five standing boards and committees that regularly use the building.
“I will say, there was a committee using [Selectman] Joe Weeks’ card,” Moberg said. “Any time that person came it, it would say Joe Weeks had entered the building.”
“Me?” Weeks replied. “I don’t even have a card. … I’ve been waiting for a [key card] fob since I got here. I’ve never had one … someone took it, evidently.”
Dyer said it sounds like there are still kinks to be worked out.
“That’s why I’ve been trying to pull it in a bit,” Moberg said. “We now have a chain of command. We know exactly what’s going on and who’s going to be in the building and when.”
Noting that Town Hall is a public building to which people have a right to access to a degree, Weeks said he would agree to whatever approach is accepted as long as Moberg or Baker are available and reasonable access is permitted.
“I just say, ‘Keep it simple,’” he said. “‘Whatever you want to do, I’ll back it,’ and then we’ll roll out the wrinkles as we go.”
He also wanted to see better communication about the cards.
“If someone that we’re appointing is abusing … the cards, I’m very interested in how my key fob got into someone else’s hands,” Weeks said. “We need to know who we’re appointing to these committees.”
Moberg said it happened before he started, so he doesn’t know how that happened.
Green said the fobs had been instituted because keys had been passed around without documentation – only to have the same thing happen with the card fobs.
“It creates a security concern,” she said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett cautioned that the Selectmen’s office vigorously communicate that they are moving in that direction.
In other business Fire Chief Jerome Thompson Jr., announced that his administrative assistant Barbara Murphy retires in July, Annemarie Bouzan, currently serving in that capacity at the Building Department will take that job in mid-to-late July.
“I felt it was prudent to work on moving forward and try to get this position filled sooner, rather than later, so we can start the transition process,” he said. “There are a lot of things in our department that an administrative assistant does that, quite honestly, I don’t know.”
The department has just transferred to an ambulance billing company, for example.
Thompson said he has submitted a letter about who they have recommended after going through a process through which two internal candidates applied.
“We thought it would be best to put them through an interview process,” he said.
Both candidates were brought in for an interview and assessment.
Duxbury’s Fire Department administrative assistant and human resource director as well as Halifax Fire Chief Jason Viveiros came to Hanson to interview both candidates. Test scenarios involving Excel, computer programs and an interview and review of their employment package were also administered. He recommended that the person who scored number one be hired – Bouzan. Selectmen voted to approve the appointment unanimously.
The process of filling Bouzan’s job at Town Hall will, in turn, be posted in house before it is advertised with an eye to having someone ready to step in as soon as Bouzan moves over to the Fire Department immediately after Murphy’s retirement.
“We want to minimize the impact for the department with the transition,” Green said.