WHITMAN — The Select Board on Tuesday, Sept. 27 voted to call for a special Town Meeting at some time in November, and discussed the salary issues that could affect hiring of a new Town Administrator.
“We have appointed, effective Oct. 1, our town accountant to the position of acting treasurer/collector,” interim Town Administrator Frank Lynam said. “In order to make a permanent appointment, we would need to change the status of the position from that of elected to that of appointed.”
He recommended a special Town Meeting be scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14, which, he said, seems to be the most popular choice for a meeting night to address that and “other financial issues that may need to be addressed.”
The meeting is not officially scheduled until Select Board members sign a warrant.
Lynam said there are also a “number of budgets” that need to be adjusted, which would more appropriately be addressed in a special Town Meeting than to wait until May.
“It takes off some of the concern departments may have about possibly running out of money before that event occurs,” he said, noting he expects the session to be minimal in scope.
The new quorum requirements approved at last year’s annual Town Meeting calls for only 100 registered voters, rather than the 150 that used to be needed to convene a special Town Meeting.
If the question is held off for the May Town Meeting, the board will effectively have already placed a question on the ballot before the Town Meeting has voted to take that action.
Thirty-five days are required to vote on a ballot issue before it head to the ballot, and there is only two weeks separating Town Meeting and Town Election.
“I think it’s cleaner,” Lynam said. “It’s not essential, but it’s a good idea, in my mind.”
Select Board member Shawn Kain expressed a concern about scheduling a Town Meeting unnecessarily, saying that while he does have concern about the budget, he also feels confident about the work town officials are doing.
“Once we update the public I think those kinds of budgetary concerns will be alleviated,” he said, noting that he had no objection to holding a special Town Meeting if the board agreed it was necessary.
Lynam informed the board that Plymouth County, which oversees COVID funds, issued the town a final disposition declining Whitman the use of $160,000 some three weeks ago.
“That doesn’t mean we’re out of money,” he said. “It means we have to go to the ARPA fund to seek funding for those.”
He added that he did challenge some of the decisions and last week the town received a check for $42,559. That leaves $120,000 that must be appealed through ARPA.
In other business, Lynam updated the board on the work of the Town Administrator search committee, which met for the first time as a committee the week before.
He said an important observation had been made by one member that Whitman will be conducting its search with a combined budget for the position of $150,000 — more than $140,000 plus vacation buy-back time that was included in the actual budget.
“I am waiting for survey results, but I believe $150,000 is an absolute minimum that would enable us to recruit for this position,” he said. “I know that sounds crazy, given what the numbers were over the years, but town managers and administrators are now being hired and several towns broke the $200,000 mark this year, and they’re not heavily experienced people.”
Lynam sought permission to prepare an ad and advertise [a salary of up to ] $150,000, but cautioned the board the salary might have to be revisited.
“It’s going to be difficult to fill the position,” he said.
The board approved the ad for a salary ranging to about $150, depending on experience.
Lynam also addressed a communication gap with some granted use of the Town Hall.
A battle of the bands, for which use of the Town Hall Auditorim was sought by the Cultural Council, approved by the board, and the hall had been set up for it — only to find out via Facebook that the event had been canceled.
“I think it bodes well for us to ask for more communication when people request use of the Town Hall, because it involves other people and other efforts,” he said.