Minutes of the Finance Committee, April 6, 2000

Chair Morey called meeting to order at 6:35 pm
Present: Committee Members Donahue, Morey, Nash, Roberts, Rourke, Vogt

Also in attendance: Town Administrator Sanders, Selectman McCallum

1. Minutes
FinCom voted unanimously to accept, as written, minutes of 3/30/2000 and 4/3/2000 meetings.

2. Budget Line Item Changes
Police Chief Jim Victoria was in attendance, as requested by FinCom, to propose changes in police expense line item, Line 61. Chief estimates line is $9000 underfunded, anticipating increase in fuel costs, additional clothing, increased rate of arrests leading to additional lockup costs, and continued repair expenses for department vehicles. FinCom unanimously approved increase in line to $45,000 from $36,000.

To balance budget after Line 61 increase, and approval for funding transfer station (see ATM Article 10) FinCom unanimously approved changing Line 129  Sand Seal to $18,000.

3. Special Town Meeting Warrant: General Discussion
FinCom asked Ms. Sanders to find moneys for several special town meeting warrant items from encumbered and unspent funds from FY00 budget and report to FinCom on sources.

After initial discussion, some articles from STM warrant were deleted, and an additional one  added (Article 3, asking town for opinion on Lyman Bldg renovation). All reference in these minutes are to the revised 4/6/00 draft of STM warrant, created by Ms. Sanders after these changes.

4. Special Town Meeting, FinCom Actions
Articles 1 & 2: Approved Unanimous
Articles to transfer Ch. 90 money to Highway Dept & $26,000 from free cash for legal services.

Article 3 No action 5 in favor, 1 opposed to no action vote
Article suggested by Mr. McCallum in order to gauge town’s feelings about Lyman Bldg renovation. If town discussion indicates town opposed, following warrant articles to fund grants, etc., may be tabled at the meeting.

Article 4 Action tabled 5 in favor, 1 opposed to tabling decision
Transfers of funds from various accounts for purpose of paying professional fees in connection with Lyman Bldg rehab. Action tabled pending futher discussion. It was felt this article depends on Article 3. FinCom must discuss and decide whether to approve or disapprove this article in relation to town response.

Article 5 Approved Unanimous
Transfer from Council on Aging expenses to purchase backfill for Miller’s garage.

Article 6 Approved Unanimous
Transfer sums from various accounts to cover Police Expenses in FY00.

Article 7 No Action 3 in favor of no action, 1 opposed, 1 abstain
Create a Conservation Fund

Article 8 Disapproved Unanimous
Transfer money to create Conservation Fund. Disapproved following no action on Article 7.

Article 9 Tie vote on approval 3 in favor, 3 opposed
Committee agrees to revisit issue once Town Counsel approves wording.

Discussion: Article to transfer $98,000 from landfill escrow to purchase Kater acreage. Ms. Vogt expressed deep concern that selectmen had short-changed the town by not providing enough evidence of good value in the purchase, i.e., no plot plan, no engineering report, no appraisal. She felt regardless of how attractive purchase would be, information anyone would require for personal decisions was not in place and it was FinCom’s responsibility to refuse decision until such evidence was forthcoming. She suggested selectmen go away, get ducks in row, and return for vote at STM in June.

Mr. Rourke liked the idea of purchasing this land, but also suggested there was too much information for town to absorb on all these land issues—library, Mt. Watatic, and Kater land, —so possibly we should consider putting money aside at STM and telling town we’ll be back for their vote in June.

Mr. Donahue repeated his strong opposition to funding purchase from escrow account because town needed this money for future landfill monitoring needs, noting that DEP estimates of between $10-$15,000/year were absolutely best case scenarios and town was already committed to $375,000 over the current balance in the account.

Mr. McCallum said selectmen felt it appropriate to use escrow account for this purchase because the fund was created for one-time expenses and should not be used for future recurring expenses on the project. He said he feared the money would remain vulnerable over its lifetime since town approval was not required in order to spend it.

Mr. Nash thought investment in the old Lyman property could only serve to benefit town in every way. He felt, although official appraisal not done, the value seemed reasonable based on what we know to be current value of house land in Ashby.

Ms. Roberts expressed her general concern with management of the transfer station and looked for a more concrete set of plans for future of the waste management in the town, including monitoring of landfill, current and projected revenues and expenses. She felt that at some point town will likely need to reinstate a budget line item for landfill monitoring as well as transfer station management, since even if left untouched, escrow account would not cover projected expenses.

Mr. Morey said he thought $98,000 seemed fair value for the land but he was not in favor of transfer from escrow and agreed with Ms. Vogt that enough information was not available for FinCom to support the article.

Article 10 Disapproved 2 in favor of approval, 4 opposed
Article allowing town to take 233 acres of Mt. Watatic by eminent domain from funds in a gift account. Discussion followed with reference to April 3 meeting, with Mr. Rourke already on record as opposing eminent domain. Mr. Donahue also said he was against taking land by eminent domain. Mr. McCallum reported that Industrial Communications, the land’s owners, had, since last meeting, applied to Planning Board for permission to subdivide. This brought general discussion of concern for legal actions should town move for eminent domain. Ms. Roberts and Mr. Nash stated their interest in keeping the land undeveloped as an important natural resource in the town.

Article 11 Approved Unanimous
Reserve fund transfers. Board approved, restating commitment to beef the fund as much as possible with fear of plenty of unforeseen circumstances next year. FinCom has asked Ms. Sanders to look for additional encumbered funds to add to reserve fund.

 5. Annual Town Meeting, Article Actions
Articles 1-5 Approved Unanimous
Approved at earlier meeting

Article 6 Approved Unanimous
Article to fund new full-time patrolman for police department.

Article 7 Disapproved Unanimous
Discussion: all agreed chief felt he needed new position, but hard for town to finance, even with possibility of grant covering 75% of salary in first year. Mr. Donahue repeated his concern that even if grant-funded, this commits town to two full-time salaries, representing too great a leap in expense. Ms. Vogt felt chief was in a learning curve and although staffing stresses were difficult, felt he would be in a better position to predict needs after another year.

Mr. Morey pointed out that the lieutenant would be lost to department for nearly six months for Academy training and the chief would have additional need for someone to replace the lieutenant during that time.

Ms. Sanders reported that two new hires as reserve officers were already academy trained. She felt chief’s intent was to hire from within for new positions, if funded, and if the new reserves worked out.

Article 8 Disapproved Unanimous
Article to fund $30,000 to design EMS services coverage. No discussion (discussed fully at prior meetings).

Article 9 Action Tabled
Article to transfer $35,000 from stabilization to purchase property behind library. Action suspended pending new language from attorney, who says selectmen must specifiy what will happen with land, how it will be purchased, what action will be taken on easements since land does not abut library.
Mr. Donahue expressed his view that this would be a good use of stabilization funds, library is town’s best building and needs improvement.

Article 10 Action Tabled
Article to raise and appropriate $33,000 for transfer station operation. Discussion to recommend removing article or rewriting to indicate transfer $16,000 from landfill escrow account to defray costs created by balance of $17,000 in estimated local receipts at transfer station. Action tabled pending Mr. McCallum’s contacting DEP about language, legality, and feasibility of funding station this way.

Article 11 Approved Unanimous
Raise and appropriate for town budget.

Article 12 Action tabled
Article to accept and expend grant moneys. Tabled for rewriting to eliminate possibility of grants with strings attached.

Article 13 No action Unanimous
Article to allow preservation easement on outside shell of Lyman building. Not felt to be money-related issue.

Article 14 Approved Unanimous
Mr. McCallum explained this article, which transfers funds previously allocated to Lyman Building funds to Lyman Building Renovation line item, eliminates restrictions in earlier wording of funds so that all money can be applied to best use for ADA compliance.

Article 15 No action Unanimous
Article to change Town Treasurer from elected to appointed position. Discussion about whether this alters cost to the town if it means an appointed Treasurer might have more professional qualifications. Mr. McCallum says no appreciable difference under the law for changing position.

Article 16 Approved Unanimous
Article to increase schedule of permit fees.

Article 17 No Action Unanimous
Article changing zoning by-law Section 7.2.5 (ski trails)

Article 18 No Action Unanimous
Amend town by-laws to change “March” to “June” in Section 4, Article VII.

Article 19 Approved 5 in favor, 1 opposed
Amend town by-laws, Section 1 of Article V, to allow assessors to make full value assessment every third year instead of annually.

Article 20 Disapproved 5 in favor of disapproval, 1 opposed
Article enacting special legislation adding Chapter 61 properties’ rollback or penalties to be placed in a Conservation Fund. FinCom disapproved because such fund disapproved earlier.

 Article 21 No Action Unanimous
Amendment to Article X town by-law to place conditions on placement of objects within public right of way.

Article 22 Approved Unanimous
Adopting Chapter 41 of general laws, giving Town Clerk annual bonus if awarded certification.

Article 23 No action 5 in favor, 1 opposed
Accepting the Open Space and Recreation Plan. Generally felt no action required, since no moneys involved. Mr. Nash opposed, saying he felt the FinCom should be willing to approve this plan.

Article 24 Approved Unanimous
Article transferring funds to stabilization account.

Meeting adjourned at 9:17 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Peggy Roberts
Acting Clerk