HANSON – The Board of Selectmen has approved a revised policy and procedures document – minus a few points of concern on which they sought clarification or amendments.
Recreation Commission Chairman Frank Milisi reported on its revised policies and procedures for the Board of Selectmen’s approval at its Tuesday, Feb. 22 meeting.
The 20-page document, according to Milisi, corrects previous amendments not yet approved by Selectmen and adoption of a clause in the vendor contract, as well as fixing typographical errors.
“There was some Recreation director positions that were in here and we added to some teams we had at the commission level, and things like that,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve had Board of Selectmen voted-on policies and procedures from four-to-five-years, so we’re just trying to shore things up with the rate increase that we did.”
Selectmen Chairman Matt Dyer said he had a question and a comment about the changes.
“I know that we have a relatively new commission up there,” he said.
“Very new,” Milisi agreed.
“One thing I’ve been asking for [over] the last four years … was that we really need a business plan to really understand what’s going on up there operationally, because … the camp’s going to need another subsidy and one thing I would like to see, maybe before Town Meeting, would be a financial plan – a projection of what you guys are going to see over the next couple of years, just so we can get an understanding, because we keep hearing ‘it’s another subsidy, another subsidy.’”
Milisi said a meeting was scheduled for Monday, Feb. 28, and he was willing to out that on the agenda, but that he and Audrey Flanagan had previously present such a document with a rate increase that showed projected revenue for fiscal 2022 and 2023 with different rate increases that didn’t get voted on. That proposal could be shored up.
“We keep hearing it’s going to get better,” Dyer said. While he stressed that no one is going to be critical because of the global effects of COVID, it has been something he has been asking for and it always fell short.
“Yeah, we had the pandemic, but we still need to make a level business up there, that’s what it is, is essentially a business,” Milisi said, noting that they have other ways of generating revenue, including applications for American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds and similar programs.
“Obviously those rate increases will do us a lot of good,” he said.
The Camp lodge is already booked for 2022 and the commission is now booking for 2023 when the new fees should take effect, according to Milisi.
He pledged to get a business plan before Selectmen before Town Meeting.
“I don’t take going to Town Meeting and asking for money lightly,” he said. “But we had a discussion the other day about ‘do we have enough money to have the caretaker paint the wall?’”
“That’s getting real,” said Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett.
Milisi said it’s a double-edged sword – if they can’t pay caretakers for upkeep, then the camp will deteriorate faster and will then be unappealing for prospective leasees.
Dyer also mentioned that town counsel had advised against 80-20 fee splits anymore, and suggested another look be taken. Milisi agreed the split is also hard to audit.
Town Counsel Kate Feodoroff said she has asked them to shore up the contracts and is less concerned than she has been in the past about liability, but that Selectmen dictate policy.
“We shouldn’t be subsidizing people’s business, but we shouldn’t be making a huge profit off recreation – we make our profit off of weddings and things like that,” Milisi said.
He also said he believes the 80-20 split is equitable, but that the commission could try to rewrite the contracts to make them equitable, since Selectman Joe Weeks had indicated he would favor putting the issue off to another meeting to decide it and prepare for a discussion with the board.
“Twenty percent of one person’s revenue is not necessarily the same as 20 percent of somebody else’s, but there’s some programs that don’t make that much money, and 20 percent to them is still a good amount of money,” he said.
Dyer also mentioned the pre-COVID intention of the Commission to raise the rates at Cranberry Cove. While he voted for it, he said he was against the principal of raising the rates and an agreement – never really implemented – was placing two day passes with the Hanson Public Library to be checked out by families, as museum passes are already made available. He said he still wants to see that implemented.
Milisi said that could certainly be added to the policy.
“I applaud this, I think it’s very thorough,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. She did note “some ethics things,” including public meeting concerns, and advocated including a clause indicating that town bylaws and state ethics laws prevail over the policies.
Milisi indicated that policies where it is concern, that legal concern would be footnoted.