AYER -- The Finance Committee reviewed its first draft of the fall Town Meeting warrant to be finished by Oct. 4 in time for Town Meeting on Monday, Oct. 28.
Chairman Scott Houde discussed a warrant article requesting $148,000 for the stabilization fund.
Members John Kilcommins and Brian Muldoon agreed with the amount, which is 7 percent of fiscal 2014 revenue.
"Where do we want to ask for the funds from, free cash?" Houde asked.
Kilcommins and Muldoon agreed.
Although Houde believes there is free cash available, he will confirm exact numbers with the town administrator.
Other articles include funds to repair and/or replace streetlights downtown in accordance with the DPW superintendent's Interim Street Lighting plan. The committee discussed replacing about 20 streetlights to be done before the return of standard time in November.
DPW Superintendent Mark Wetzel explained the Interim Street Lighting plan as short-term and still in the works.
"Over the years, we have had 10 of the decorative lights on Main Street and East Main Street either get hit by cars or removed and not replaced," Wetzel said. "The Board of Selectmen wanted them fixed, so I developed a plan to replace them."
One a warrant article to replace the Crabtree Pumping Station, Wetzel later said, "(The pumping station) probably won't last another year in the shape that it's in now.
Fincom reviewed a memorandum from Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand to director of economic development David Maher and the Town Clerk and Tax Collector John Canney on their duty to implement and administer the town's business certificates.
Businesses are required to renew their licenses every four years. But FinCom feels that businesses should be notified about when their licenses will expire.
Members began looking at the process two years ago for two reasons. One, they wanted to make sure that the $20 fee for licenses/renewals was being collected. Two, FinCom wanted an accurate listing of what types of businesses are in Ayer.
Maher compiled a list of the businesses and upon first review, "the list showed approximately 40-50 percent of the businesses had valid licenses," Houde said.
In a meeting with Canney regarding his role in sending out notifications that licenses are about to expire, Canney maintained that he is abiding by Massachusetts General Law by issuing the licenses when businesses come to Town Hall to file, without prior notification.
Though the issue was not resolved, FinCom members said Canney should notify businesses when their licenses expire and increase the fee to $50 for two years.
New budget model
Houde introduced a new budget model, which details each department's expenditures on a on a spreadsheet. Although it is too soon to look at real numbers for a realistic five-year model, Houde said the model is just a proposal for review.
The model showed budgets from the past four years to show the growth and changes over time.
"The thing is, because we have a four-year look at what the increases are, we can make a more conscious decision of what we think the changes will be (in the future)," Houde said.
While looking at a five-year budget plan and planning for fiscal 2015, Houde said, "I would like to take a look at hiring a professional negotiator in collective bargaining agreements so that we can strip out the need for the town administrator and the Board of Selectmen's time with it."
He later explained that professional negotiators may be more "savvy" in the collective bargaining process.
"How would you see that working?" Muldoon asked.
"Basically, we would hire someone to sit through the collective bargaining process and do all of the negotiating forms," Houde said.
Houde got the idea last year at the Finance Committee seminar where many other Finance Committees mentioned that they had negotiators in their towns. Houde suggested looking at what the cost would be. Other members agreed.
Muldoon mentioned bringing the suggestion up to the Board of Selectmen to see if it would be possible.
"I don't want to come off as intrusive," Muldoon said, as this is part of the Board of Selectmen's responsibility to approve the hiring.
Houde agreed and suggested to look at numbers first.
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