Minutes of the Finance Committee
October 26, 2000

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

Chair Vogt called meeting to order 7:00 pm.

Acceptance of Minutes of Preceding Meetings

Ms. Vogt directed members’ attention to October 19 minutes, asking them to read carefully the discussion about proposed STM Warrant Article 4, accountant’s compensation, to see whether it reflected their memories of the meeting.

Members present said the minutes accurately matched their recollections. Ms. Roberts recommended rewording the second sentence of paragraph two under discussion of Article 4 to read as follows:

"Ms. Roberts asked for clarification on the appeal process for redefining town jobs. For example, how should an employee proceed if he or she discovers that a job thought to be part time had become a full-time commitment?"

Minutes of September 25 were unanimously accepted as written. Minutes of October 19 were unanimously accepted as amended.

Discussion and Action on remaining STM Warrant Articles

Ms. Vogt reported that BOS had decided to withdraw the proposed article pertaining to additional accountant compensation.

Article 1, Prior Year Bills

Discussion: Ms. Vogt reported that Smith Electronics bill had been applied to the FG& E grant, but that $15,000 was now completely spent and this $2,402.25 was the balance which town must pay. Ms. Roberts reported that conversations with Don Cote explained he had not been sufficiently trained in submitting his bills to the town so had submitted them late. He was complimentary about the accountant’s handling of his requests and now felt he knew better how to manage the job. He was looking forward talking with FinCom about next year’s requests in January.

Action: Approved, unanimous.

Article 7, Highway Mechanics Wages

Discussion: all agreed this expense inevitable, whether added to wages or hired as a consultant.

Action: Approved, unanimous.

Article 8, Fire Department Tanker

Discussion: Ms. Vogt had talked with the fire chief but had no additional information over the quite thorough explanation chief had given FinCom at Sept 25 meeting. Mr. Nash said he was still a bit confused over the large number of trucks the department had, though he felt we needed to take the chief’s word on the need for this truck. Committee agreed the investment was wiser than investing more money into the junk engine this would replace.

Action: Approved, unanimous.

 

Article 10, Cell Tower Lease of Landfill

Discussion: Ms. Vogt noted the exact location of the tower had been specified in the rewording. FinCom felt this a good use of the land, bringing income to town, and putting tower where it would be no inconvenience to towns people.

Action: Approved, unanimous.

Article 11, Acquire Mt. Watatic Land

Discussion: Ms. Roberts pointed out FinCom had disapproved this at annual town meeting. However, it was generally felt that town had voted to approve so it would be counterproductive to disapprove at this point. Ms. Vogt agreed to discuss the progress of ongoing negotiations with the owners with Mr. McCallum and report back.

Action: Approved, unanimous.

Article 12, Short Term Loan on Mt. Watatic Purchase

Ms. Vogt reiterated her earlier concerns on this article, saying Mr. McCallum had not gotten back to her with anticipated expenses—legal fees and loan interest—should this article pass. FinCom needed to know how much money was involved and where those funds would come from. She also said the town had voted for the purchase at town meeting on the understanding that it would cost the town nothing in fees or interest, but this article reneged on that agreement with the town. Members agreed, though Mr. Nash hoped the town would vote for this short-term funding so that the purchase could go through.

Action: Disapproved, unanimous.

Article 13, Town Bylaw Change, Prohibit Motorized Craft on Reservoir

Discussion: Ms. Vogt was concerned that new landowners might have bought land thinking they could use motor vehicles, but committee members were satisfied by the enforcement provisions and the question of jurisdiction raised at earlier meetings.

Action: No Action, unanimous.

Article 15, Donation of Land from Ashby Congregational Church.

Discussion: Mr. Nash reported he understood the church would be getting a sizeable contribution of money in return for the donation of the parsonage to the library. Ms. Vogt reported that both BOS and Maureen Davi had said town would not take possession of the house unless it was untenanted. Tax bill on the land was approximately $1850 a year, so this would be potential loss in revenue to the town if the church used it as a rental property. If used as a parsonage, town received no tax income. Ms. Vogt did not want FinCom to take any action which would discourage Library Trustees in going forward with their plans.

Action: Approved, unanimous.

NMRHS School Aid Vote

Ms. Vogt reported on a new state requirement which would return the difference between the governor’s school budget and the town’s approved district budgets back to the state unless towns vote to give that difference to their district. The Board of Selectmen and Finance Commitees must officially vote to keep the money in order for those funds to be available to the schools.

Action: Approved to return funds to schools, unanimous.

BOH Contract with Murray

Ms. Vogt reported that Town Counsel had reviewed the contract drawn up by Board of Health with Murray and Sons and has an issue with clauses relating to bag fees and revenues. Counsel felt wording indicated town was paying Murray under the table and that the bag fees and revenues need to go through the Town’s books. BOS and BOH would be reviewing Counsel’s opinion.

FinCom Budget

Ms. Vogt reminded members that at next meeting we need to discuss FinCom’s budget line items in order to meet the November deadline for all departments submitting 2002 requests. In addition to its small expense line, FinCom needs to consider the Reserve Fund and Stablization Fund requests.

Financial Management Review

Ms. Vogt reported that the Department of Local Services would meeting with BOS Chairman, Town Administrator, FinCom Chairman, Assessors, Accountant, Collector, and Treasurer in 45 minute sessions throughout the day Monday, October 30. She said she hoped DLS would address the team communication and systems issues and give us an overview of where we might improve financial management in the town. Mr. Leclerc asked that DLS also look at technology improvements which might help.

Other Business

Ms. Vogt reported that she had been thoroughly researching the quorum requirements for the open meeting laws for town government. She had discovered that the Ashby Town Bylaws do not address committee quorums, but only state a Town Meeting quorum for taking a vote. Likewise the Mass General Laws do not specify quorums for open meetings. She had asked Town Moderator Dennis Moore to assist her with the research, and he agreed there seemed to be nothing in the statutes spelling out quorum requirements.

Ms. Vogt also reported that she had spoken with Ashby’s local representative from the DLS, out of the Worcester office, on the matter of alternative borrowing resources for the town. He said that though there were other ways of borrowing money, bonding was by far the most economical for any small town, despite its inherent costs, which can be financed into the bond itself. He said that the statutes spell out specifically for what purposes and in what repayment terms a town may borrow, 20 years being the maximum term.

Meeting adjourned at 8:35 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Peggy Roberts,

Clerk