SHIRLEY — Despite friction over the recent appointment of one of its two new members, both seemed ready to get down to business when the Board of Assessors recently met.
Most of the dust seemed to have settled, but as the session wrapped up, an Oracle reporter’s question stirred it up again, briefly.
One of the new members — Jonathan Greeno — was asked whether his late-breaking bid to join the board was prompted by a call from Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.
The query touched on controversy over his appointment.
Greeno, who currently chairs the Planning Board, said he’d been trying to ease out of the other volunteer board he’s served on for over a decade. When the vacancy came up on this board, he decided to go for it.
Given his professional field, it’s a better fit than Planning Board, he said. Greeno is Principal Assessor for the town of Groton and an independent Real Estate appraiser.
As Greeno explained it, he called Garvin — a former coworker in Groton — to ask where to send his application. She told him to send it to the selectmen’s office, which he did.
“Why didn’t you come to the assessors?” as others vying for the vacancy had done, asked Vice Chairman Dorothy Wilbur.
Greeno didn’t say why he didn’t do that, but he indicated he’d gone by the book to submit his application. “I had no idea it would cause such a storm,” he said.
His intent, he said, has always been to serve the town and that’s his only motivation now. “I want to do what’s best for the town,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”
To recap, there were two open Board of Assessors seats as of the Town Election in May. One was a full, three-year term. The other was a one-year vacancy from a mid-term resignation.
Wilbur, recently retired as principal assessor in the town of Stow, ran unopposed for the three-year seat.
There were no takers for the unexpired term.
The appointment process to fill the vacancy until the next election called for a joint vote by selectmen and assessors. Generally, when such a situation comes up, the selectmen tend to ratify the other board’s recommendation.
But not this time.
The vacancy was advertised, posted on the town website and in local newspapers.
After considering several applicants, the two assessors — Wilbur and Chairman Paulette Arakelian — brought their candidate to the selectmen a few weeks ago.
But Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said another application had come in that day and must also be considered, so the anticipated appointment would have to wait.
The applicant was Greeno.
The selectmen suggested a do-over to reconsider all applicants. The assessors agreed.
At a subsequent joint session, the vote was three for Greeno, and one each for two other candidates. The selectmen later said they had all voted for Greeno and that the split vote was between the two assessors.
They voted again — raised hands this time instead of a secret ballot — and unanimously voted to appoint Greeno.
Paulette Arakelian later wrote a letter decrying the outcome and critical of the administration and the appointment process, citing “perception” by some townspeople that the process was flawed, among other issues.
Her son, M. Adam Arakelian, wrote a follow-up letter that was also critical of the administration’s role in the appointment process and of the sketch of his mother’s letter at a selectmen’s meeting.
Both letters urged the town administrator and the selectmen to seek and listen to public input and to be more transparent in conducting town business.
Controversy aside, the Board of Assessors’ new dynamic looks promising.
At the recent meeting, for example, with two members of the three-member board present (Arakelian, who is recovering from surgery, was absent) plus Principal Assessor Rebecca Boucher, there were three experienced professional assessors at the table.
They all knew the terms and the turf. One might say they spoke the same language, which is good news for the town as the housing market starts percolating again and the board gears up for town-wide re-evaluation next year.
Greeno pointed out that there are 2,700 parcels of land in town that must be inspected as part of the evaluation process, with and without homes or businesses on the property.
Over about an hour and a half, the assessors worked through the agenda Boucher had prepared, from approving minutes of past meetings to signing warrants, invoices and other documents to taking up various agenda items listed for discussion, including correspondence and questions.
The agenda also included office updates such as the public version of “Mr. Mapper” released earlier this month. The new and improved on-line tool makes it easier to access documents but does not increase the assessors’ budget, Boucher said.
Although they voiced different takes on some issues and added insights from their own experiences in Stow and Groton, respectively, Wilbur and Greeno agreed to continue the procedures established by the previous board that Boucher has worked with for years.
It’s early days for the new board, but for now, they don’t anticipate changing the way the board does business, the assessors said.