SHIRLEY — As selectmen wrapped up a short and uneventful session Monday night, the only public comment came from a member of the board.
Kendra Dumont briefed the board on a transportation meeting she attended with Town Administrator Patrice Garvin last week. Keolis Commuter Services conducted the meeting, held at Acton Town Hall.
Although she and Garvin did not resolve long-standing rail-related concerns the town has raised before, such as establishing a quiet zone and commuter parking, Dumont felt it was a productive meeting, she said, particularly the question-and-answer period.
On the quiet-zone issue, Dumont said when she spoke about it with state Sen. James Eldridge, an Acton Democrat who represents Shirley, he didn’t hold out much hope. Basically, he said most communities that have “quiet zones” established them long ago.
“He said they were grandfathered,” she said, meaning they can still exist despite new transportation rules that determine the length, frequency and sound level of train whistles as they near a crossing.
Keolis Commuter Services, a subsidiary of Keolis, which specializes in passenger transportation around the world and recently moved its North American headquarters to Boston, manages the MBTA’s commuter-rail line, which runs through Shirley and has several rail crossings in town, effectively dividing it.
The result is that emergency vehicles can be held up at the tracks for too long as a long, slow freight lumbers through.
“We asked if they could change the schedule” so that those trains pass through late at night rather than during peak traffic times, Dumont said.
Dumont and Garvin also asked about parking at the train station and whether the town can charge fees, Dumont said. Now that the Leominster Train Station has reopened but is charging a fee, commuters come to Shirley to avoid paying, she said.
But there could be a “Catch-22” if the town won that point. If the MBTA did allow the fees to be charged and the town did so for its 25 designated spaces, that might affect the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority reimbursement the town receives for plowing them now, Garvin said.
In other business, the board appointed Victoria Smith as town treasurer and agreed to designate her as a “Special Municipal Employee” so she can take on the tax collector’s responsibilities as well.
The board’s decision to merge the two positions was controversial and included legal hurdles. Doing it this way achieves the goal the board intended without those hoops to jump through, Garvin said.
“Town counsel states that’s one way to merge the responsibilities of the two jobs without actually merging the position,” she said.
Selectman David Swain said he was pleased with Smith’s “extensive background” and impressed with her references, noting that she had held a similar position for a long time in the town of Harvard, where her supervisor said he’d “hire her back in a heartbeat,” he said. She also worked in Groton and as a bookkeeper in Fitchburg, he said.
Asked how many people had applied for the job, Garvin said the search committee received six applications and interviewed three candidates. Then, to streamline the process and to avoid violating the Open Meeting Law, each selectman spoke with the recommended candidate individually, she said.
Smith starts her new job next week.