FROM THE TOWN ADMINSTRATOR’S DESK
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The Selectmen held their annual organizational meeting and goal setting workshop recently. In keeping with their practice of rotating the position of chairperson and vice chairperson, Susan Beckmann was elected as the new chair and Arthur Steinert as the new vice chair. Appreciation was extended to Eli Boling for serving as the chair for the last two years. His continued role as selectmen will ensure his leadership skills benefit the Town.
The workshop session focused on roles and process of the Board as well as upcoming priorities. During the first part of the workshop the Selectmen reviewed the protocols for strong ethical behavior, including a reminder about taking the on-line ethics course the state requires of all municipal officials and staff. While many aspects of ethical behavior is common sense, it is useful to review best practices for fostering trust and confidence with residents. When this strong foundation exists, governing is more effective.
Having productive meetings requires preparation beforehand. Agenda materials can be voluminous and board members were encouraged to carve out sufficient time prior to their meetings to review their agenda packets thoroughly. And healthy debate during meetings is a good sign that board members are engaged and have thought carefully about the items on an agenda. Split votes are certainly perfectly acceptable – just like the public, each Selectman will have a unique perspective to bring to the table and unanimous votes will not always occur. To help ensure the Board has good information before making decisions, a template for presenting the essentials of a given topic, including background, options and recommendations from staff, will be followed.
The second half of the meeting was devoted to identifying the top priorities for the coming months. There is always a long list of projects that need completing. Each Town Department leader works with me to map out priority work on a quarterly basis. The Selectmen’s priorities focus on the larger issues and overall direction of the Town. The Board’s priorities for the coming months include:
Communications: Ensuring that the public is well informed about town operations and decision making is critical to our success as a community. We also want to make sure that the opinions of residents are taken into account when making decisions and that we are engaging the whole community. Efforts to build a robust and dynamic system of communications will continue.
Master Plan Implementation: The work on crafting the new Master Plan is nearing completion. By the Fall, we will have the critical action items that will need to be implemented which will likely include pursuing amendments to the Limited Commercial District as a way to foster a larger commercial tax base, identifying additional lands for permanent conservation, supporting the work of the Manchester Affordable Housing Trust, and continuing to advance capital improvements to our infrastructure with an added eye on the impacts of climate change.
New Elementary School project: Soon the School Committee will be advancing their final recommendations for a new elementary school. A Special Town Meeting vote will take place in October with a ballot vote to follow in November as part of the state elections. Debating the merits of the proposal and developing a funding strategy for it as well as other District capital needs will require considerable time and attention.
Shared Services: Exploring options for new service delivery models with our neighboring communities holds the potential to maintain or improve services while saving money. Voters voiced support for pursuing options and this work will be unfolding over the course of the coming year.
As always, there is plenty to do! Communities are complex, and sorting out what are the most important projects is not always easy. The Selectmen work hard on your behalf and with active engagement on everyone’s part we can chart a successful path forward.