WHITMAN — Consultant Ann Donner presented the final version of the town’s strategic plan to the Board of Selectmen during the Tuesday, Feb. 15 meeting.
Selectmen voted to approve the plan, which is now posted on the town website and may be obtained as a paper copy as well. The plan will be used to guide budgetary decisions through 2027.
“We’ve been looking at this version of it for a couple of weeks,” said Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski, noting that officials were welcome to call Donner if they felt changes or revisions were needed.
“From what I understand, nothing needed changing,” Kowalski said. “It’s an impressive document. …We need to hold ourselves accountable, and hopefully, there will be people who hold us accountable, too.”
Kowalski credited Forest Street resident Shawn Kain for ensuring the board stayed on-task with the project.
“He saw the importance of it, and we’re seeing the fruit of that right now,” Kowalski said.
Donner thanked the board for the opportunity to work with them on the plan.
“What was impressive was the amount of care and effort that everyone put into this,” she said. “The success of any strategic plan is that everyone’s got their shoulder to the wheel … in order to achieve those results, part of it is keeping track of it.”
Donner said the town’s goals for the plan were realistic, and encouraged them to review how it is being followed, whether on a bi-annual or quarterly basis.
Kowalski agreed that a biannual review is a good idea.
“What we don’t want is for something that you’ve all put so much work into to sit on the shelf,” she said. “I think the way the plan was formulated, it’s really a plan that can be shared with people.”
On the heels of approving the strategic plan to help guide budgeting decisions, the board heard Town Administrator Lincoln Heineman’s budget update.
He noted that the Finance Committee is now working on its review of the budget.
“We went through the broad strokes two weeks ago,” he said, noting that he wanted to provide the board with opportunity to take a more nuanced look at it.
Heineman pointed to a couple savings options that, he said, demonstrate “how we can succeed in different areas and find some efficiencies.”
He has instructed IT Director Josh MacNeil to “take a look globally at our telephone operations” with an eye to perhaps buying less expensive plans for some phones or to get rid of some landlines altogether. He also looked into a new firm to oversee ambulance billing, which resulted in some savings in exchange for better service.
Heineman said he is also looking to return the visiting nurse fund to what historically has been there, after the service funding had been transferred to CARES Act funds that are now ended. Additional funding to senior citizens’ bus transportation as well as veteran services, are also being sought in the budget.
In other business, Selectmen discussed the process for finding a new assistant town administrator.
Selectmen, were forced to table next steps in the assistant town administrator search after the town failed to agree to terms in contract negotiations with designate Rogeria Medeiros-Kowalczykowski last month.
“What needs to be done now … is to advertise it [again] and go through anther search process,” Kowalski said. “Hopefully, one that will end in having someone in the position.”
He also asked Heineman to consider another position, one that could be called a human resources and operations director, one that could include procurement responsibilities, “with grant-writing on the side.”
Kowalski said such a position, by its very title, would be more focused. He asked that Heineman work on it and present a couple of alternatives to the board for continued discussion at the board’s meeting the first week of March.
When Building Inspector Robert Curran retires on May 26, the town will also be looking into the possible hiring of a full-time building commissioner. A transfer of funds at the May Town Meeting would be required to make a full-time position possible.
“I think now is the time,” Heineman said, proposing that a new job description be drawn up for the position. He argued that the position include a requirement that more support and advice be provided the ZBA and Conservation Commission.
While many towns of a similar size have a town planner and conservation agent, it may not be something Whitman is looking at now, but a full-time building commissioner would be a help.
“I don’t think that anytime soon it’s anything the town wants to look at, but I do think, and the chairs of that board and that commission seem to agree, it would be worthwhile to have some professional assistance for them in their work,” he said.
Selectman Justin Evans agreed that it was a good idea long overdue. Selectman Randy LaMattina said zoning issues and code enforcement also need to be big part of the position, but he didn’t want to get too far ahead on it until the budget is better firmed up.