SHIRLEY — Updating selectmen at their meeting last week, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin covered everything from a dog boarding deal to the pending formation of a police officer screening committee, to a brainstorming session set for the next day to discuss Town Meeting procedures.
Based on feedback from the Nov. 10 Special Town Meeting, Garvin lined up a potential think-tank group to address Town Meeting issues.
Those invited to participate included past and present town moderators, the Town Clerk, a selectman, a Finance Committee member and Town Counsel, who was on duty at the recent STM and “had some insights” to offer afterward, Garvin said.
Asked if everyone had agreed to come, Garvin said the only negative RSVP so far was from Town Moderator Enrico Cappucci, who won’t be there.
New Dog House
The police chief has arranged for Harvard Kennels to board stray dogs picked up by the dog officer, who until now had kept the dogs at his own house, Garvin said.
Police Officer Screening Committee
Garvin sketched the makeup of a screening committee selectmen previously agreed to form. Charged with assisting in the process of hiring a new police officer whose added position was approved and funded at last month’s Special Town Meeting, the group as proposed will include a selectman, Finance and School committee members, Ambulance Director Mike Detillion, Fire Chief Dennis Levesque and a community representative, she said, hopefully, the pastor of St. Anthony’s Church, who has served in the past.
She has yet to ask some of the envisioned members and is trying to work out a meeting schedule that will allow a School Committee member to serve, Garvin said.
The committee will assist the selectmen by interviewing vetted (by Police Department) candidates and selecting three for the selectmen to interview, she said.
Robert Prescott volunteered to serve as the board’s representative on the committee, whose marching orders will be formalized at the next meeting, along with a final version of the job description Garvin gave the board in draft form.
Among the items on the not so good news list, Garvin said the town’s assessment from the Middlesex Retirement Board has gone up over three percent, adding $60,000 to the budget outlay for the coming year.
The Ayer Shirley Regional School District assessment is also about to increase, she said, upping the annual bill by $100,000.
“So that’s $160,000 … between the two, Chairman David Swain commented.
The retirement levy is a given but as for why the school bill is going up, Garvin guessed it might be partly due to a health insurance cost hike similar to the increase included in the town budget of “about nine percent,” based on the latest word from the provider.
Early snow hits budget
The recent snowstorm that blanketed the area, the first significant snowfall of the season, dug deep into the town’s snow and ice budget of $79,000 for the year. With most of the winter still ahead, the town spent $10,000 for this one storm, Garvin said.
The good news is that the DPW did a “great job” clearing town roads, as usual, Selectman Kendra Dumont said.
Senior Tax Work-off Program to continue
Selectmen voted unanimously to continue the town’s Senior Tax Work off Program for another year, with $25,000 set aside from the assessor’s overlay account.
Administered by the selectmen’s office, which is now accepting applications, the program offers property tax abatements to town seniors who qualify, at the rate of $9 per hour, the state’s new minimum wage.
Participants must be age 60 or older and own property in town, Swain said, listing some of the rules. There are apparently income limits, too, and town employees are not eligible. Applications are available on the town website: www.shirley-ma.gov.
Asked if the number of applicants typically exceeds available slots, Executive Assistant Kathleen Rocco said they do not. The trick is finding the right fit. It can take time to match an applicant’s skills and experience with available volunteer jobs, she said, which aim to assist but not replace work done by town employees.