GROTON — Long-time town employee Michelle Collette will retire early next year.
The news came from Town Manager Mark Haddad at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting after noting that Collette had worked for the town in different capacities, most lately as town planner, for the past 33 years.
“I’m extremely sad that Michelle decided to retire,” lamented Haddad. “To replace her is going to be very difficult.”
Collette worked for years in the town’s land-use office as the Planning Board’s administrator before taking on the title of town planner, but due to her many years of experience, was well versed not only in town history, but the workings of its municipal government.
As a result, it would be “virtually impossible” to find a perfect replacement for Collette, said Haddad.
Haddad plans to meet with members of the Groton’s land-use staff to gather input on what to look out for in a new hire.
After that, Haddad will meet with the Planning Board to settle on language to be used in advertising for the town planner position.
A search committee will then be formed to review applications and narrow the field of finalists who will be interviewed by the board.
Haddad told selectmen that his intention for the search process was that it be a “very collaborative” process.
“There is no replacement for Michelle,” agreed Selectman Anna Eliot, describing Collette’s success as being due to an “aura of professionalism, kindness, and fairness” she demonstrated on the job every day.
Collette, added Selectman Stuart Schulman, was “the prototype of the nearly perfect town employee.”
Collette plans to retire in February.
Also at their meeting, selectmen met in joint session with the Finance Committee to review a draft of the warrant for fall Town Meeting.
Scheduled for Oct. 19, Town Meeting will include a warrant with 15 articles that voters will be asked to consider.
The review of the warrant had no sooner begun however, than it became bogged down in a discussion over a request for new spending to be added to the fiscal 2016 budget that had already been approved at annual Town Meeting last spring.
Nearly $40,000 more to cover unforeseen expenses in the renovation of the Public Safety Building was approved by voters when the Fire Department offices were moved to the new Center Fire Station. The added funds, said Haddad, would come from free cash and would in essence be covered by money saved from construction of the fire station.
Unhappy with the request, selectmen declined to support the measure outright, allowing time for the Finance Committee to review it in more detail.
Board members were also not happy to hear of a plan by the DPW to hire a third full-time maintenance worker. That position had been eliminated a few years before as a cost-cutting measure and selectmen were reluctant to recreate it with its accompanying benefits package.
Finally, the Fire Department asked for $40,000 to pay for training and turnout equipment for 39 on-call firefighters.
In addition to the budget amendments, the warrant will also include measures covering an extension of the Four Corners Sewer District to include the Rocky Hill subdivision along with commercial property at the intersection of Route 119 and Sandy Pond Road; an extension of the town center sewer district to 122 Old Ayer Road, property recently purchased from Thomas More College by Indian Hill Music; the appropriation of $219,000 for a mosquito control project delayed from a previous Town Meeting; and a number of zoning amendments.
* Considered requesting a land-purchase plan from the Conservation Commission with some members openly wondering how much open land the town needed to buy. However, it was decided that it would be inappropriate to discuss the issue without the presence of the Conservation Commission. As a result, the matter was continued until a meeting with the commissioners could be scheduled.
* Voted to appoint Michael McCoy to the Charter Review Committee; John Giger as a member of the Regional School Agreement Review Committee; Leslie Lathrop to the Municipal Building Committee for Prescott School; and Steve Henderson to the Trails Committee.
* Approved the creation of a quarterly newsletter and left it to Haddad to figure out which would be the best means, including mailing with electric bills or posting it on line, of getting it before residents.
* Reviewed the status of the town’s OPEB account. Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB), is a savings/investment scheme designed by the state to help towns and cities keep financially solvent even as employee benefit liabilities continue to increase. To address the problem, residents at Town Meeting voted to establish an OPEB trust fund authorizing the appropriation of an initial deposit of $200,000. The town’s total unfunded liabilities come to $8.3 million. Currently, reported the town manager, that initial deposit has been made with plans to make another installment next year.