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Selectmen: So far, budget situation looks ‘positive’

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PEPPERELL — “This is positive news; we had a certain target of $200,000 in savings and you did good work with the town administration,” Selectman Joseph Sergi said to Town Accountant Gene Ferrari.

According to a report Ferrari provided, the town is running a $250,000 estimated general fund return. Savings are from insurance and related costs, the Police Department and Public Works.

At the last selectmen’s meeting on July 25, Ferrari reported on the budget, but did not provide hard-copy data.

The board thanked him for what they called an executive summary and commended him for his work, but remained wary about overall balancing.

“This is positive news, but it is not a turn around the corner,” Sergi said.

Selectmen Chairman Michael Green and Town Administrator John Moak felt the same, saying the numbers were “preliminary.”

With that in mind selectmen also voted to give Moak interim authority to oversee Ferrari’s balancing process. They asked Moak to report twice in September to the selectmen, especially on free cash line items that need to be finalized before Town Meeting.

“Someone needs to have their eye on the ball and make sure proper reporting is done,” Sergi said.

In addition to the budget oversight, selectmen outlined goals for the town administrator going forward.

According to the board, goal-setting is part of the overall review process that all department heads will be undergoing. After deliberating detailed objectives, the board settled on the administrator working on three areas.

Economic development, the first goal, will be undertaken strategically, said Selectman Sergi.

“We are looking for a system to apply to areas like the Mill Site, Lomar Park and the Main Street Corridor,” he said.

Second is the oversight of the upcoming Charter Commission. At the next meeting, the board is planning to appoint a five-member ad hoc committee to secure signatures that will begin the charter process.

The last is the functionality of the technology that runs town finances. Currently the systems “do not talk to one another,” said Selectman Green.

“We need someone to assess it and then make a recommendation to retain or replace it,” he added.

In a unanimous vote, selectmen also agreed to send a letter to the Lowell Regional Transit Authority requesting an expansion of service into Pepperell and the surrounding area.

“We have problems with consistency due to their routes,” said Council on Aging’s Marcia Zaniboni.

According to COA board member Barry Fuller, the proposal has 100 percent approval from the LRTA, but they just want a letter as a formality. Fuller also represents Pepperell on the LRTA advisory board.

“This is a great opportunity; it certainly makes sense to expand service to where our seniors need it,” Selectman Stephen Themelis said.

Once the initiative moves through the LRTA Roadrunner Service will provide more consistent routes to Harvard, Townsend, Westford and other zones Pepperell seniors frequent for medical service.

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