GROTON — Selectmen Monday night voted to affirm a plan by the town manager to reorganize and consolidate the town’s financial offices to improve service and streamline payroll formulation.
“We will end up saving money over time,” said town manager Mark Haddad.
According to Haddad, between them, the assessor and treasurer’s offices cover 176.5 hours of work among their employees, at a combined cost of $219,092 in salaries.
If a proposed plan were to be put in place, the town manager said it would result in a reduction in work hours and up to $30,000 in savings from the current municipal budget.
With the savings, Haddad proposed the purchase of computer software to help in payroll and the creation of two new positions including an assistant assessor and a financial offices assistant to help primarily in the treasurer’s office.
The initial reason for the proposal, Haddad said, was the town’s antiquated manner of figuring out its payroll with such department heads as DPW director Tom Delaney spending hours manually figuring out hours worked by his staff as recorded on time cards and then doing the math to find out how much each is owed for the week.
“I can’t believe that in the 21st century with all the technology we have that we’re still doing payroll manually,” said Haddad.
The town manager said a better, more efficient method of figuring out payroll and keeping track of overtime needed to be implemented and he suggested a computerized system that he was looking into.
If approved, such a system would cost $29,000 a year to operate in addition to another $9,000 to set it up.
It was something, said Haddad, that he always had had in mind but never had the time to look into.
“We’re doing our homework on this,” he told selectmen last Monday night indicating that in addition to examining different programs, he would be visiting other towns that use similar systems to see if they perform as expected.
Selectmen liked what they heard and voted to affirm Haddad’s plans and urged him to continue his review of potential programs.
Also last Monday night, selectmen voted to adopt a charge for a new Wetlands Review By-Law Committee that would have members review existing wetlands regulations and recommend changes if needed.
The board had postponed its vote pending the return of member Peter Cunningham, an advocate of review, giving him an opportunity to comment before a decision was made.
Last Monday night, Cunningham expressed his continued support of a review with emphasis on what exactly was meant by the phrase “public good” used in the existing law.
The issue of creating a Wetlands Review By-Law Review Committee came to the board’s attention in the aftermath of a decision by the Conservation Commission not to approve a plan by the Groton Electric Light Commission (GELD) for a new office/garage complex to be located on land off Station Avenue.
Commissioners insisted at the time that there be no encroachment into a 50 foot buffer zone protecting the nearby James Brook watershed, something GELD representatives insisted could not be done without compromising needed elements of the planned building.
In adopting the charge for the new committee, selectmen also nailed down its membership which is to include a member of the Board of Selectmen, one from the ConsCom, an at large member, a member from one other town board or committee, a local land engineer, a local builder, and a wetlands or environmental scientist.
With last Monday night’s vote, selectmen hoped to begin interviews with prospective members soon.
Last Monday night, board members also:
* Voted to authorize Haddad to enter negotiations with daycare owner Robin Kane over leasing the former Tarbell School for her business instead of selling it to her outright as previously approved by town meeting. The change was made necessary at the request of the Community Preservation Committee. CPC members felt more comfortable in possibly granting a request by Kane for money to help cover the cost of renovating the Tarbell building if it remained in the hands of the town.
* Approved a 3 year contract with Patricia Dufresne which would cover her as assistant town accountant for the first six months of the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012 and then as town accountant after she replaces outgoing Valerie Jenkins for the remaining two and half years till June 30, 2015.
* Voted to allow Haddad to spend up to $5,000 to cover the cost of an engineer who will design a septic system for Squannacook Hall to be located across the street on land owned by resident George Wheatley. According to Haddad, after revisiting the issue of the mothballed building, he and DPW director Delaney spoke with Wheatley about siting a septic system on his property because there was no room for one on the lot occupied by the historic hall. Wheatley was receptive toward the notion with the result that Haddad returned to the board for permission to proceed with a study and possible design.