Minutes of the Finance Committee
October 19, 2000

In attendance: members Leclerc, Morey, Nash, Roberts, Vogt

Chair Vogt called meeting to order 6:55 pm.

Acceptance of Minutes of September 25

Reading and acceptance of minutes tabled until next meeting.

Special Town Meeting Warrant Discussion

Ms. Vogt introduced discussion of the November 18 STM warrant by suggesting FinCom go through the latest draft with each member expressing opinions. If direction of committee seemed clear enough, she would ask for a vote on FinCom opinion for the article. If additional questions or discussion were warranted, items would be tabled for the next meeting. FinCom has until October 30 to take final action Town Administrator has asked Town Counsel for an opinion on whether FinCom can include a brief explanation of the board’s action on the warrant itself.

Ms. Roberts attended BOS meeting of October 18 where individuals or departments who sponsored articles explained their rationale for requests to BOS. She agreed to summarize these presentations for individual articles as appropriate.

STM Article ? (draft of 10/19/00)

Transfer $17,000 in trash bag revenues back into Stabilization.

Discussion: Ms. Roberts reported that this article (which would move the $17,000 allocated in FY01 budget for projected trash bag revenues back into Stabilization fund) had created the most discussion at BOS meeting, with Bill Stanwood representing BOH. Mr. Stanwood requested the article be removed from the warrant, since in his understanding the $17,000 surplus did not actually exist. Town Administrator and Ms. Roberts argued with him during the meeting, producing the final budget, which showed $17,000 in local revenues generated by bag revenues. After lengthy discussion about the BOH contract with Murray and Sons–which authorizes the waste management company to receive all incomes from bag sales–BOH, BOS, Town Administrator, and Ms. Roberts representing FinCom agreed to table the discussion until Friday October 20 continuance of BOS meeting. This postponement would give FinCom an opportunity to look more closely at the issue at its Thursday Oct 19 meeting.

Mr. Morey explained that the $17,000 surplus simply did not exist. He said the town had voted to fund the waste operation from Stabilization and therefore had not approved either projected revenue or expenditure from the Town’s operational budget. After extensive discussion, other members understood his point.

Action:

Vote to recommend elimination of the article: unanimous.

STM Article 1

Transfer moneys to Prior Year Bills

Discussion: FinCom in general were concerned about the dates on some prior year bills, i.e., 1998 Bell Atlantic bill from the Fire Department, and discussion centered on why these bills had not been submitted in a timely fashion. Ms. Vogt said she knew some department heads had resigned, leaving unfinished business, but it was felt some of these items merited further research.

Mr. Morey asked about the $2402.25 bill from Smith Electronics for communications and wondered why this had not been taken from the communications gift from Fitchburg Gas and Electric. Ms. Vogt agreed to research this item.

Ms. Roberts agreed to contact Don Cote, plumbing inspector, directly about his outstanding bills. Mr. Morey was concerned that Mr. Cote had perhaps not received timely response to his submission.

Action: Action tabled until results of research at next meeting.

STM Article 2

$7200 for funding an annual audit.

Discussion: Mr. Morey felt an annual audit was expensive and not needed. Mr. Leclerc explained the request came after a presentation by financial advisors on the possibility of Ashby applying for a bond in the future. An annual audit for three consecutive years was required in the credit rating process.

Mr. Morey reiterated his belief an audit would tell us nothing we didn’t already know and that he felt the town would not be going out for bond in any case. Mr. Leclerc said he felt there was a good possibility the town might seek bond money in the future, so he felt the audit was necessary. Ms. Vogt said the funding could not wait until the ATM because by then we would be too late for an FY00 audit (FY99 had just been completed). She said as a member of the financial community she took for granted the need for annual audits. Ms. Roberts said she, too, felt that in light of the result of this year’s audit, knowledge gained through auditing is useful and improves accountability for financial management of the town.

Action: Article approved by FinCom, vote 4 for, 1 against.

Article 4

Town Accountant compensation

Discussion: Ms. Roberts reported that BOS had this additional compensation for accountant because she had been required to work significantly beyond her job’s described 12-15 hours per week. This additional work was created by, among other things, researching and reconciling past discrepancies in the town’s books.

Mr. Morey felt strongly that the extra work was a part of the accountant’s job, and that to fund the extra money in the middle of the year would be unfair to the rest of staff in town. Ms. Roberts was concerned that the job had significantly altered since ATM and that the job was no longer part time.

Mr. Morey said he felt that part of this request was due to the accountant’s learning curve and that as she became more experienced like, say, the accountant in Townsend, she would be required to put in fewer hours.

After general discussion, it was felt that the precedent for raising a salary in the middle of a fiscal year was not a good one and that FinCom should ask the accountant to bring this request to the ATM budget review.

Action: Disapproved by FinCom, unanimous.

Article 5

Transfer money for school parking lot repairs

Discussion: Ms. Vogt explained that the pipes burst in parking lot between school and the police department so NMRSD had agreed to pay one half and the town one half of the $3800 repairs.

Action: Approved by FinCom, unanimous.

Article 6

Transfer $1992.09 and $727.98 for Cemetery wages

Discussion: Ms. Vogt reported that the treasurer had mistakenly dipped into the capital held in trust by the perpetual care funds for cemetery wages and expenses and that those expenses must now be met by additional appropriations. In addition, the town had to replace the capital mistakenly spent.

Action: Approved by FinCom, unanimous.

Article 7

Transfer $1000 to Cemetery maintenance.

Discussion: same as Article 6

Action: Approved by FinCom, unanimous.

Article 8

Transfer $2328 to Highway mechanics wages for training new mechanic.

Discussion: Andy Miller, Highway Department mechanic is retiring in the spring and additional wages are needed to cover training period for new mechanic. Mr. Morey felt this might be better appropriated at ATM and he agreed to contact Superintendent Bill Davis to ask about that possibility.

Action: Tabled until report from Mr. Morey

Article 9

$21,000 for outfitting used Mack chassis for Fire Department tanker

Discussion: Ms. Roberts reported that Chief Stacy had submitted an impact questionnaire as well as reporting to BOS on the advantages of replacing the old tanker which was due for $5000+ repairs with a vehicle which will last the town 15 years. This was the process he had already described to FinCom in his recent visit.

Ms. Vogt had some additional questions for the chief, wanting to get some more detailed figures from him on the expenses anticipated on the older vehicle.

Action: Tabled until report from Ms. Vogt

Article 10

Addition to Zoning Bylaws describing camouflage of cell towers.

Discussion: Ms. Roberts reported this was an article requested by the Planning Board. General discussion concluded this did not require FinCom action.

Action: No Action by FinCom, unanimous.

 

Article 11

Multi-year contract for lease of transfer station land for cell or wireless communication

Discussion: Generally felt a good idea for town to look into this, but FinCom would like to wait until the final wording was available for a vote.

Action: Tabled awaiting final wording.

Article 12

Bylaw amendment about motorized watercraft on Ashby Reservoir

Discussion: Ms. Roberts reported that Mr. McCallum said this article was requested (though not by petition) by residents of the reservoir who had in the past abided by a general agreement to prevent motorized boats on the lake. FinCom questioned who actually owned the reservoir since it is a backup reservoir for the City of Fitchburg. Does the town have authority to create this bylaw? Mr. Morey also asked who would have responsibility for enforcing the fine.

Action: Tabled until report from BOS on questions.

Article 13

Approve Library project and accept preliminary design

Discussion: Initial discussion centered on this having no immediate financial impact for the town since it contained no numbers of financial obligation. Ms. Roberts reported that Maureen Davi had told Selectmen that this was a preliminary approval to allow the Board of Trustees to proceed with their plans, but that no final decisions on financing or design approval would be made without regular input along the way from townspeople and town boards.

Action: No action, unanimous (?)--However, after the vote, Mr. Nash added that he felt perhaps the FinCom should make some action on this article since if the library plan goes ahead it will have significant financial impact on the town. This discussion may be reopened at a later FinCom meeting.

Article 14

Accept a donation from the Congregational Church of the old parsonage

Discussion: FinCom was concerned that though this is a gift it may have financial implications for the town: will town lose tax revenue by taking the house as rental property out of town inventory? If there is a current tenant, how will town manage to take possession of the property when it’s needed? Ms. Vogt agreed to ask BOS and Ms. Davi for answers to these questions.

Action: Tabled until results of research.

Articles 15 & 16

Common deed rewording/easement for M. Reggio for Post Office/Tavern construction

Discussion: Ms. Roberts explained that the town common road was actually a part of the common and creating access off of it needed a change in deed. Also, the old tavern porch actually sits across the town common land and Mr. Reggio has asked the town to approve an easement to allow the porch to remain.

Action: No action by FinCom, unanimous on both articles.

 

Article 17

Rewording of FY01 ATM Mt. Watatic land purchase

Discussion: Ms. Roberts reported from BOS meeting that in order to receive self-help grant which will match donated funds toward purchase of the mountain, the state requires a rewording of the article adopted at ATM. Ms. Roberts also asked why there was no reference to the earlier article. Ms. Vogt will ask BOS about this at the Friday meeting.

Action: Tabled until queries answered.

Article 18

Borrow short term $250,000 to front money for mountain if the self-help grant is received.

Discussion: The state’s self-help grant is a reimbursement, so town will have to front that portion of the purchase price and wait for state check. Questions from FinCom included: How long before state will pay and what will be resulting interest accrued? What funds will be used to pay the interest?

Action: Tabled, pending answers from BOS.

Next meeting

Monday, October 23, at 6:45 when Town Administrator and Ms. Roberts will briefly report on progress of the Capital Improvements Plan, then discussion of STM Warrant will continue.

Meeting adjourned, 8:45 pm

Respectfully submitted,

 

Peggy Roberts,

Clerk