TOWNSEND -- According to an opinion from town counsel, the Finance Committee's role at the upcoming Town Meeting is to make recommendations on the budget amendments as proposed by the Board of Selectmen, said Town Administrator Andy Sheehan.

A difference in opinion arose between the Finance Committee and Sheehan when he described the role of the committee with the budget as different at an annual Town Meeting than at a Special Town Meeting, said committee member Carolyn Smart at the Oct. 4 joint meeting including the selectmen.

Sheehan's opinion was also reported in the newspaper, she said.

People should not act based on what they read in the newspaper or on Facebook, said Selectman Sue Lisio.

"He said it at your meeting," Smart said.

"And at our meeting," Chairwoman Andrea Wood said.

Wood requested more clarification on her committee's role.

"What is it exactly that you expect us to report on at Town Meeting?" said Wood.

"The recommendation," Sheehan said.

"Like we always do," she said.

"That's what I thought," he said.

"We're only going to do what we always did," Wood said. "Have at it."

"I don't understand why you thought we either wanted to become involved with coming up with the budget or the warrant," Wood said.

"All we wanted to do for Town Meeting was to make our recommendation," she said, and it is easier to do that if the committee knows what is going on all along.


Sheehan requested a letter from town counsel in response to what Lisio termed the misunderstanding between the Finance Committee and the town administrator.

"As Andrea says, we're all on the same page. That's the page we've always been on. Apparently it was all a misunderstanding," Lisio said.

The town budget was balanced, but because the town was the only one of three member towns in the school district not to approve an override, the town must find money for the school.

"When you're already into the fiscal year, it's more confusing to try to balance your budget," Sheehan said.

The draft for the Special Town Meeting scheduled for Oct. 30 contains two articles to amend the budget. He has asked town counsel for an opinion on the articles and had not received it by the time of the meeting.

The first article calls for a supplemental appropriation to raise $417,728 needed to supplement the North Middlesex Regional School District budget. This article, if passed, is contingent on approving a Proposition 2 1/2 override at the special election scheduled for Nov. 13.

The second article also calls for raising some funds from available cash but requires cuts to the town's general government budget for most of the funds needed for the school.

"This is going to be so damned confusing. If the override doesn't pass (at the election), you'd just pass over one of these articles," Lisio said.

It would make more sense for the Town Meeting to be held after the special election once the town knows if the override was passed, Smart said.

Selectmen can discuss it at their next meeting, Lisio said. "I don't want to get into deliberations. This should happen at our meeting," she said.

Sheehan said he will seek town counsel's opinion on making the change.

In other business, the Finance Committee invited resident Bill Biswanger to talk about harvesting town land.

A parcel purchased near Meetinghouse Hill Road was intended to be logged when it was purchased with the help of a state grant in the 1990s, he said. The logging, which could be done every five to seven years to raise money and maintain forest health, has never been done, he said.

The price for lumber varies depending on demand, he said, but logging has been a profitable way to manage the more than 300 acres the Townsend Rod and Gun Club owns.

Biswanger is a former officer of the club.