On Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen talked through their next steps for two issues: their effort to negotiate PILOT contributions from non-profits and handling Special Municipal Employees. A consent agenda item also followed up on a past issue on the process for naming rooms/areas of the new public safety complex. I’m rounding up the highlights:
Moving ahead with PILOT talks
Pursuing increased Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes from non-profit property owners in town
Vice Chair Marty Healey will represent the board in efforts to increase PILOT contributions from the private schools. Leading up to the decision, Healey gave more background on Town Counsel’s advice to the board that I posted about last week.
Back in June, the board decided to have Healey and Vice Chair Brian Shea take point on talks with the private schools. On Tuesday, Healey said that a subsequent Open Meeting Law session raised questions. He followed up with the Attorney General’s office to check on their constraints under OML. He said the answer wasn’t clarifying. So, Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano was tasked with figuring it out.
Cipriano determined that the duo would need to follow the same rules as a subcommittee, posting agendas in advance and following up with minutes. That is red tape the board was looking to avoid. Healey worried that it would make school officials uneasy about sitting down to talk through the issues.
Healey posed that an alternative of one member from multiple boards might be able to avoid that. But he advised that it was dicey, potentially falling under the same requirements. The board concurred that one member should act alone and report back to selectmen. Healey volunteered, noting that Shea had his hands full and he had already begun the process before it was put on hold.
The Vice Chair agreed that at some point he would reach out beyond the private schools to talk to other non-profits.
Healey also pledged to reach out to New England Center for Children, even if “just to thank them”. Earlier in the meeting, the board accepted a donation from NECC for $52,036. The non-profit institute has been paying that amount every six months since May 2015. (They increased the payments by $6K that year after acquiring additional property in town.)
Special Municipal Employees
Handling of appointed/elected officials with special status allowing more leeway under conflict laws
Selectmen voted to rescind Town Counsel’s SME status. Shea explained that the designation made in 20017 pre-dated both the current board and current Town Counsel. Cipriano had requested the board rescind the status in keeping with their new policy.
The board approved the remaining positions on the list of SME’s that was provided. They will revisit the list in the spring as an annual review. Prior to that, the board would like more information on the reasoning behind those designations. They may choose to rescind some. Healey noted that he would also like to visit extending the designation to several more positions.
On a related note, Economic Development Committee member Dave McCay resigned from the EDC via a letter sent to the board earlier that day. His resignation wasn’t on the Tuesday agenda nor mentioned. (It would have been too late for the agenda under public notice laws.)
It was McCay’s request to extend the designation to the EDC that prompted the board’s decision and new policy. McCay’s letter stated that St. Mark’s School hired his firm to represent them on their new dormitory project. The former EDC member explained:
Although I will not be involved in representing St. Marks, I would not want the firm’s work to be a distraction in any way from the merits of the Downtown Initiative. The EDC’s hard work should not be undermined or its motives questioned as a result of my firm’s representation of St. Marks. For that reason, I reluctantly have chosen to resign from the EDC.
The letter didn’t clarify if that is the same project that prompted his SME request in July. It also didn’t clarify if the decision was based in part on the new SME policy. While the board approved his request, they first passed a policy requiring SMEs to submit disclosure forms in certain circumstances. Prior to that vote, McCay strenuously argued against the stipulations.
Public Safety Building room naming
Process for dedicating spaces in the new building
Earlier this fall, the Town put a call out for nominations for dedicating spaces in the new combined police and fire station. Selectmen originally asked the Public Safety Building Commitee to review the submissions and make recommendations. Last month, the committee informed them that there was an issue. As nominations were submitted and people began talking about plans to submit, several members realized that they had conflicts of interest. PSBC Chair Jason Malinowski asked the board to come up with another plan.
One suggestion was to form a subcommittee of members who didn’t have conflicts. After some debate about whether or not to put the process on hold, selectmen agreed to that approach. Selectman Dan Kolenda volunteered to serve as the board’s rep on the subcommittee. He nominated Assistant Town Manager Vanessa Hale to also serve.
This week, the board approved members of the PSBC to serve that indicated they are free of conflict: Jason Malinowski, Peter Goodney, John Lyons, and John Wood.