SHIRLEY — In the second stretch of Town Meeting Monday night, voters opted to make the town-collector position an appointed one, but rejected that motion for the town-clerk position.
The article, presented in two motions, allows selectmen to petition for special legislation that would make the positions appointed by selectmen and not elected.
The motion for an appointed collector, which passed 49 to 15, was presented as an opportunity to expand the job applicant pool for a position that is becoming increasingly complex.
“Back in the mid-20th century, town government was simple and basically these jobs could be handled by part-time employees,” said selectmen Chairman Kendra Dumont. “Now, towns are the multi-million-dollar operations that they are, so the activities of the local officials are governed by increasingly complicated state laws, rules and regulations that are mandated for us to fulfill.”
Dumont said she understood the reluctance to relinquish an opportunity to vote, and opposed the notion four years ago. But her mind changed after looking at recommendations from the Department of Revenue.
As elected officials, she added, the positions do not receive personal bereavement or sick time, nor are they eligible for vacation buyout.
“Those are some of the benefits that they don’t receive as an elected official that we felt they should receive,” she said.
The motion allows for current Collector Holly Haase to stay on until her term ends or she vacates the office, at which point the position would become appointed.
Selectman Bob Prescott noted the town has 6,000-7,000 residents. An elected official must be a resident in order to run.
“Remove the seniors, remove the children, that narrows this pool significantly to probably a few 1,000 people,” he said. “And in those few 1,000 people, how many of those people already have careers?”
Prescott clarified that the job description would be completed by the Personnel Board.
Finance Committee Chairman Mike Swanton said the committee supported the town-collector motion, but did not support the town clerk as an appointed position. The committee felt positions that affect policy should be elected.
“The assessors, the moderator, we believe that those positions absolutely should be chosen by the electorate of the town,” he said. “The other positions, the town collector as was stated earlier, really doesn’t set any policy but in fact executes a series of, in some cases, somewhat complex laws.”
Resident George Knittel echoed similar sentiments, supporting an appointed town collector but against an appointed town clerk.
“The town clerk should be a resident of Shirley,” he said. “She interacts a lot with residents and should be a person who knows them, lives among them and is aware of issues in the town.”
He argued there are an adequate number of qualified applicants in Shirley, and said the clerk needs to be independent from the selectmen.
“The Board of Selectmen is already the most powerful entity in town. Allowing it to appoint the town clerk would give it more power,” he said. “But what is best for Shirley is a sharing of power among various groups, as we presently have.”
Voters also approved a new street-light bylaw that establishes a more uniform plan for street-light installation. The bylaw forbids people from erecting a street light on any public or private road without a permit granted by selectmen.
Selectmen can establish a policy addressing the maintenance and installation of street lights under the new bylaw. A street light policy handed out at town meeting requires all public poles to use LED lights.
Approved numbers for the sewer and ambulance department budgets came in at $1,411,144.48, and $121,206.94 respectively, excluding indirect costs. Voters also approved borrowing $157,000 for a plow, which will require a first payment of $17,000 in fiscal 2016.
Town meeting concluded on its second night, with a turnout of 74 voters, or about two percent of Shirley’s total 3,222 registered voters.
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