By Doug Scibeck.
Warrant Committee prepares for Town Meeting
Several articles slated to appear on the warrant for the October Special Town Meeting were discussed by the Warrant Committee Aug. 20. While many of the articles originating from the Planning Board have yet to be presented to the Warrant Committee work began in preparation for Town Meeting.
Most of the articles discussed required more information before a vote could be taken. One article would change the composition of the Fire Station Building Committee. The article would expand the committee membership from 9 members to 11 with the two new members being the Fire Chief and another member of the fire department. Discussion was deferred in order to hear testimony from interested parties such as the Fire Chief, Town Administrator, and current members of the Fire Station Building committee. At issue primarily are questions as to why the changes are needed and what benefits are anticipated if the change is approved.
Two articles involved the Public Library. One would discharge the Library Building Committee. The second article would allow the Trustees of the Public Library to sell the Kidder Building, 101 Blue Hills Parkway. This article was held over till the next Warrant Committee meeting. The library trustees are to be invited to answer questions about a potential sale of the Kidder Building, including constraints on any potential sale imposed by the will that donated the property to the library trustees.
Rick Neely and Leroy Walker spoke about an article proposing the creation of a Chief Financial Officer position for the town. The CFO position was one of the recommendations in a 2013 Department of Revenue report being reviewed by the Town Government Study Committee. Neely, chair of that committee, explained that a currently vacant Assistant Town Administrator position would be reconfigured to provide financial accountability across town government. The proposal would also change the Treasurer from an elected position to an appointed one. The Town Administrator would appoint the Treasurer as part of the financial organization under the CFO. Neely pointed out that should the article pass Town Meeting the matter would appear on the April 2019 ballot for a town-wide vote. The current Treasurer is due for election/re-election on the same ballot. If the voters approve the change and re-elect the Treasurer (who has been re-elected, usually unopposed, for the past nine years, then he will serve until the article in enacted. Neely stated he understood the Town Administrator spoke with the Treasurer and told him in that case the current Treasurer would be appointed to the new role.
Walker spoke to questions by member Tom Hurley regarding the scope of the new CFO’s authority. Hurley said some 60% of the town budget would not be under CFO control. The majority of the budget is for the School Committee. Walker said he spoke with School Committee Chair Kevin Donahue, Superintendent Mary Gormley, and Assistant Superintendent Glen Pavlicek. He said it was agreed the School Committee would cooperate with the CFO. It was pointed out that there would be no requirement for this. Under questioning, Walker said they did not want to pursue changes to Chapter 70 for Milton in order to bring budget matters more under the CFO control. Chapter 70 of Massachusetts General Laws concerns, in part, budgetary matters for school districts.
The Warrant Committee also wanted to speak with Police Chief John King before discussing an article authorizing the Board of Selectmen to petition the legislature for permission to appoint retired Milton Police officers as reserve officers. The committee had several questions for the Chief.
Additionally, the committee re-elected Brian Beaupre as Secretary.