TOWNSEND — Selectmen decided to delay an initiative to amend the Capital Planning Committee bylaw last week, choosing to take no action on a Town Meeting warrant article proposing the alteration.
The change, proposed by selectmen, would have allowed selectmen to add items to the town’s capital planning if the board deems them to be “of compelling need.” Under the current bylaw, selectmen can only add items that they consider to be emergencies.
Last year, a decision by the Capital Planning Committee to not add an $11.3 million fire station proposal to the plan, against selectmen’s wishes, kept it from going before voters at the last minute at Special Town Meeting.
Before the May 6 annual Town Meeting, Selectman Sue Lisio proposed putting off the article until the Board of Selectmen could meet with the Capital Planning Committee, the Finance Committee and the town moderator to try to develop a bylaw that everyone could agree with.
“What I realized was that it sounded like people were using terms and had different meanings for those terms,” Lisio said. “If that happens, what you end up with is people thinking differently about it and what we talked about instead is leaving the bylaw as it right now because what seems more important for us to do is to work together to try to figure out what it means.”
She recommended using other towns with effective capital planning bylaws as models for Townsend.
By creating a bylaw that all parties understand, she said, the town could avoid the confusion that the fire station proposal created last fall.
“The bylaw should document as clearly as possible what the intent is so it doesn’t cause confusion going forward. If there are things missing from it or things that need to be clarified, then certainly we should look at that to avoid the same thing happening in the future,” Lisio said.
Selectman Colin McNabb said that he still believed a change is necessary, but thought talking the proposal over with the other committees is a good idea.
“I do personally believe that we do need to have some sort of mechanism so that it’s not a fight every year,” McNabb said.
Selectman Carolyn Smart, who was not on the Board of Selectmen when the change was proposed, but was a member of the Capital Planning Committee, said the talk should be part of a larger discussion on the town’s financial management systems.
“I’m always open to change, but I need to understand what the methodology of changing our bylaw is, what it would accomplish and what it would mean for future years of capital planning,” Smart said.
“Maybe this can be part of a broader discussion on putting comprehensive financial policies into place. A bigger discussion has to happen, not just about capital planning but about the selectmen’s role, the Finance Committee’s role and the department heads’ role,” she added.
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