Town meeting warrant and annual report now available

by susan on March 28, 2012

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Town Meeting is less than two weeks away. We’ve talked about many of the issues that will be on the warrant, but certainly not all of them. For those of you who want to start doing your homework, the complete warrant has been posted on the the town website.

Hardcopies of the warrant – along with the annual report for 2011 – can be picked up at the Southborough Library, Town House, Police Station, and at the Transfer Station. If you pick up a hardcopy in advance, you’re asked to bring it with you to Town Meeting so there will be enough to go around.

Town Meeting starts on Monday, April 9 at 7:00 pm at Trottier Middle School. If needed, it will continue on Tuesday, April 10.

Have a look at the warrant, and if there are articles you have questions about, let me know in the comments. I’ll do what I can to track down more info.

1 Al Hamilton March 30, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Article 4 is the Town Manager article. While I have advocated for a Town Manager in the past I have had some serious reservations about the specifics of the current proposal. The Advisory Committee has reviewed this article and has made a number of recommendations and agreed to support the article if those recommendations are included.

I agree with them. If the Advisory wording is included then we should vote in favor of this proposal. The 2 big changes include:

1. Preservation of a strong, independent Advisory Committee with broad mandate.
2. Preservation of Town Meetings sole right to modify the document in the future except for a very limited set of items requiring state approval.

There is also the requirement that all budgets be posted on the web and some minor wording changes.

This document creates a very strong Town Manager and we might reasonably disagree on the wisdom of doing so but with these changes Town Meeting remains sovereign and can change the powers of the Town Manager at its sole discretion. With the changes we should vote for this proposal, without them this proposal should be defeated.

2 Suzanne March 30, 2012 at 8:36 PM

The Taxpayers and Citizens of Southborough should soundly VOTE to DEFEAT this proposed article. Undertaking this kind of change to the form of Government that Southborough currently has in place is pure folly. This is contrary in every way to what Americans at every level of Government, Local, State, and Federal,are clamoring for, SMALLER Government not BIGGER Government.Frankly , Southborough simply does not have a population size to justify increasing the number of elected officials,i.e. 3 Selectmen to 5 Selectmen and adding a large salary expenditure for an additional bureaucrat(at the taxpayers expense),i.e.a Town Manager. The current form of Town Management has been in place for decade upon decade and has functioned extremely well for the Town regardless of how messy local Town politics can be at times. This proposal brings flashback memories of the small faction of residents that wanted to create a separate High School for Southborough and succeed from Algonquin almost immediately after the first MCAS Test results had been released and Algonquin had scored in the top 5 High Schools in the Commonwealth. Utterly irrational and senselss, and as a result delayed for over 5 long years the decision on building a much needed new High School and ultimately costing taxpayers millions of dollars. If you look closely at the individuals who led that fruitless crusade(all while having their own children enrolled in Southborough’s elite PRIVATE Schools) you will find that those who are now championing this new cause are some of the usual suspects. I am not for change simply for the sake of change.There is the is no fundamental pressing need for this kind of an undertaking. I support the the old Yankee mentality..”IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT”

3 Al Hamilton April 1, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Suzanne

I am as big a believer in limited government as you are. There are things we do as a community today that I think we should leave to the private sector. However, I believe that this proposal (assuming the Advisory Modifications are included) merits passage.

First, I think the incremental cost of a Town Manager vs a Town Administrator is very modest. I think the number is on the order of $10k-$20k. For that expense we get some one who has experience managing a Town. As a relatively small town we are likely to get an applicant on the junior side of the applicant pool. This is not a bad thing. We are also likely to see turn over in this position on the order of once every 5 or 6 years. This too is not a bad thing as it exposes our town to new ways of thinking (something we desperately need in my opinion).

Secondly, some things are broken. The BOS today is the day to day supervisor of the Police Chief, Fire Cheif, DPW Supervisor, Town Accountant, Controller, Facilities Manager, Town Administrator, and a few others. It is also burdened by a fair amount of minutiae. The current structure requires the Selectmen to be intimately involved in the management of town departments. This system has worked well for decades, as you point out, but it is breaking down today. I think that a few of our embarrassing dust ups over the last 10 years are evidence of that. Our talented Selectmen are bogged down in minutiae and never get the opportunity to address the pressing long term issues we need to deal with.

Thirdly, going from 3 to 5 Selectmen has 3 advantages. The first is that it will broaden the voices on the committee and offer differing points of view. It will help spread the remaining burden. It will also permit 2 Selectmen to meet on the street and discuss town affairs, something that the open meeting laws currently forbid. At a minimum, we should adopt this even if the rest fails.

It is true that about 80% of what is in the proposed legislation could be implemented without going to the Legislature. The BOS or Town Meeting could devolve some of the responsibilities currently held by the BOS (or other elected boards) to the Town Administrator. There is no reason why some departments could not report directly to the TA, it is done in other towns.

This proposal creates a strong Town Manager, stronger that I would prefer, but in my opinion, if the Advisory Modifications, are adopted this proposal is good enough to warrant passage and we can always modify it in the future. With out the Advisory Modifications, I agree with you it should be voted down although if the Motion is divided and only the 5 Selectmen is on the table this part warrants passage.

4 Tim Martel April 2, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Suzanne,

I think your concerns are justified. The business case for this change has not been well articulated, though it does exist. Unfortunately, anyone who hasn’t attended the various meetings (e.g. the discussion hosted by the library last week) or done any independent research on the underlying problem wouldn’t know it. Further, the current version of the legislation (which advocates a medium-powered TM) is very different from the January draft (that advocated a very strong TM). It wouldn’t surprise me if the current legislation was weighed down by the baggage that the previous one generated. At a minimum, anyone who hasn’t followed very closely will be confused by what’s occurred over the past 3 months.

My opinion is that we’re going to see the legislation split by motion during Town Meeting – the BOS increase on one side, and most of the TM legislation (along with Advisory’s changes) on the other. The former has to go to the State Legislature for approval, while the latter does not. There are good reasons to keep the TM portion fully under Town Meeting’s control, rather than needlessly/recklessly putting it under the State’s jurisdiction.

Assuming this split occurs, I imagine the TM portion will pass as it does not represent any kind of major change – in short, some of the BOS powers will be endowed on the Town Adminstrator, and the position’s name will change. The only real con is the 10-20k increase in salary, in exchange for some serious benefits (to the BOS, to town efficiency particularly the budget process). On the other hand, the BOS increase faces a greater challenge to passage, with well-articulated pros (more viewpoints, allowing Selectman to “specialize” in areas, allowing Selectmen to focus on strategic items, allowing 2 to meet “on the street”) and cons (more uncontested races & poorly qualified candidates, allowing 2 to meet “privately”).

If the split doesn’t occur, I have a hard time seeing the whole thing pass.

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