Letter: Support Article 39 – Public Works Planning Board Reallocation of Appointing Authority

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.

This letter is from Patricia Burns Fiore.]

To the Editor:

The Public Works Planning Board (PWPB) reports to the Select Board to advise and/or assist with matters concerning the Department of Public Works and its operations. Given the significant amount of our town budget dedicated to DPW, the substantial projects we have on the docket now and in the immediate future, as well as the public dissention on some of those projects, this could be, and should be, an important, effective board.

This adjustment to Chapter 447 will change the appointing authority of the Public Works Planning Board to the Planning Board and (to be amended) Board of Health. Appointments to this board should be under the auspices of multi-person boards who are stakeholders in the types of projects under the jurisdiction of the DPW.

Some background: This board and its appointing authority was established in 1991 when numerous town departments were combined into the Department of Public Works by Legislative Act. Currently, the moderator appoints three members of the board and the Planning Board appoints two. We are proposing four members be appointed by the Planning Board and one by the Health Department (Board of Health). There are a number of reasons this should be looked at and adjusted.

The majority appointing authority lying with the moderator is not appropriate, nor the best use of his or her authority. Appointments to PWPB should be from boards that are stakeholders in DPW operations and projects. As a group, Planning Board oversees and approves a wide range of issues affecting our town’s infrastructure. The Health Department is concerned not only with our water, but use of pesticides and chemicals. Whether appointing from within their own group, or recruiting outside, both the Planning Board and Board of Health have direct interest and experience in issues that may confront the PWPB and will choose accordingly.

Furthermore, small d democracy should be at work here. We now have the majority appointing authority of an entire board under the pen of a single person, versus the consideration and discussion by boards of multiple, interested, invested, parties.

With the urging of our vote at Town Meeting tomorrow, the Select Board can take the steps to change this by petitioning the state legislature, and, in addition, potentially take it upon themselves to narrow and define the charge of PWPB so it can provide the Select Board exactly what they need.

I urge you to vote in favor of Article 39.

Patricia Burns Fiore
10 Winter Street
Organizer of Citizen Petition Article 39

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