PEPPERELL — Selectmen gave Town Administrator John Moak a largely favorable evaluation in his annual performance review Monday night.
Selectman Michael Green said that while Moak did well overall, he failed to achieve certain objectives, including passing a balanced budget and rezoning the Peter Fitzpatrick School into a commercial property.
However, he said, those failings could not be placed entirely on Moak.
Green said the failure to pass a balanced budget was a result of changes in state budget formulas and not Moak’s fault.
“Everything that John could control or directly or indirectly oversee, he did a good job of preparing,” Green said.
Moak said the new state formulas were a change that negated much of his work toward reducing the town’s structural deficit.
“I thought we had it, and we got hit with a few things we didn’t anticipate,” Moak said.
Similarly, the rezoning of the Peter Fitzpatrick School, which was closed in 2008, was rejected by voters in May. The rezoning would have allowed the old school building to be used for commercial purposes, which selectmen said could have spurred economic development on Main Street.
“We were hoping we could make better use of it and draw people into town and support economic development. The voters did not agree,” Moak said.
Green praised Moak for his work in orchestrating an economic-development survey that received 1,200 replies from residents on what types of development they would like to see in Pepperell.
The board also recognized changes he had made to increase efficiency within town government, including the implementation of a new computerized, bi-weekly payroll system.
Selectman Michelle Gallagher refrained from giving much feedback, as she was just elected to the board in May.
The board also set five goals for Moak to work toward in his next year on the job — developing a balanced budget for fiscal 2015, improving internal management, working with the Capital Program Committee, promoting economic development and continuing to work with the Charter Commission to develop a town charter.
Although more specific objectives will be established at future selectmen meetings, board members did outline some specifics.
Board members say promoting economic development will entail working closely with the Economic Development Advisory Committee and trying to rezone more land for commercial purposes to attract businesses to town.
The goal of improving internal management will include projects such as launching a redesigned town website, improving the staff evaluation process and improving the town’s technology networks.
“I tend to look at town management as an art, and I think we need to bring more science into it,” Moak said.
He said decisions should be more data-driven, and agreed to take professional seminars on analytical management.
Moak said all the goals feed into one larger goal — ensuring that the town is sustainable financially.
Selectman Stephen Themelis said sustainability and economic development are two of the most important goals.
“We’ve got to think about helping local businesses to do better and draw business to the town of Pepperell,” Themelis said.
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