PEPPERELL — After a town charter was adopted through a vote on April 28, officials are looking toward implementing the document.
Changes include control of the budget process being taken over by the town administrator, switching the town clerk and treasurer/tax collector positions from elected to appointed and hiring a “strong” fire chief.
Joe Sergi, chairman of the Charter Commission, said the document was drafted with the intent of specifically outlining how the transition would take place in order to streamline that process.
The town administrator will be charged with taking over the fiscal year 2016 budget process at the end of this calendar year.
Sergi said he does not expect to see any trouble as the transition is made.
“Pepperell politics are very polite. We don’t expect any problems on the transition. What’s key is if (Town Administrator) John Moak does retire, we have a town administrator that can come in, understand the transition and collaborate with department heads,” Sergi said.
Moak said that while he had planned on retiring later this year, that decision is on hold as he awaits the results of a vote on a $1.1 million override June 16.
“I had planned to leave pretty soon but the timing is sort of up in the air,” Moak said. “Let’s say the override doesn’t pass and you have to make cuts, you don’t really want to leave someone new to deal with that.”
He said he predicts that the budget transition will be smooth and in everyone’s best interests.
“I’m looking forward to trying to work in more of a management role and present more of a finished project to the public. The budget in that way becomes more of a management tool, where the town administrator can say this is the goal town-wide, and how does what you’re doing fit into that,” Moak said.
The town clerk and treasurer/tax collector positions will change from elected to appointed at the end of the current terms. Lisa Ferolito was elected as town clerk last month for a two-year term. Debbie Nutter was elected as treasurer/tax collector for a one-year term. Both are filling unexpired terms due to departing personnel.
The transition process for appointing a fire chief is longer, stretching out over three years.
“We went a little bit above standard practice on the strong chief to be sure we incorporated the concerns of the Board of Fire Engineers and the firefighters. They wanted some time,” Sergi said.
Between 29 and 31 months after the adoption of the charter, selectmen will appoint a seven-member fire chief search committee. The committee will be chaired by the town administrator and will also include the police chief, an on-call firefighter, a paramedic/EMT, the communications director, the Department of Public Works director and a resident at-large.
That committee will recommend no more than two candidates to the Board of Selectmen for appointment, according to the charter. The chosen chief will start three years after the charter’s adoption. At that time, the Board of Fire Engineers will be abolished.
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