Selectmen initiate Collins Report recommendations

by Bob Zielinski

The Board of Selectmen has begun to move forward on selected recommendations in the Collins Study, and in the coming weeks will continue consideration of the 45-page report.

Selectmen had retained the Collins Center for Public Management to conduct a six-month study of Carlisle government operations for departments located in Town Hall. The analysis began in June and the report was presented at the December 4 Selectmen’s meeting. At the February 12 meeting Selectman Tim Hult reported on a review of the 15 report recommendations by himself, Administrator Tim Goddard and Finance Director Larry Barton. He said, “This represents our opinion; it does not represent decisions. The report has a high regard for our employees and their sharing of workloads. We have a reasonably efficient operation for services we provide.”

Town Clerk

Perhaps the most controversial is the recommendation that the Town Clerk be changed from an elected to an appointed position. There was no discussion during the meeting, but Hult suggested that the Selectmen “have an open hearing and talk to people about it and then decide if it should be on the Town Meeting Warrant.”

Land use boards

The suggestion that the Building Department, Planning Board and Conservation Commission be relocated to the Highland Building to facilitate “one-stop shopping” didn’t, in his opinion, make sense: “They are right next to each other now. Removing them would disrupt the present cohesion with other departments.”

Finance and technology planning

Hult said that the reviewers concurred with the recommendation to develop a long-term financial plan with more coordination between the Finance Committee and the Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee. They also favored development of a five-year technology plan and suggested establishing a Technology Committee. The recommendation to have a technology department was a non-starter for financial reasons. Also, they felt that insourcing payroll was of little value because of an estimated six-year payback on the cost of software and training.

COA and Recreation

Hult said that the Selectmen should “get out of the way” of present initiatives in the Council on Aging and the Recreation Department in using software to track program usage. Further, Hult said that the Selectmen should not consider consolidating them into one department at this time.

GIS and Website

Regarding GIS (Geographical Information System) and town website development, the strategic technology plan should address what “layers” of information should be targeted for inclusion.

Workforce Transition

With an aging workforce they agreed that transition must be carefully managed “with regard to the privacy and employment rights of all individuals involved.” Hult said that in their review they recommend, “The Town Administrator should have a confidential conversation with each of the senior staff in a non-threatening and respectful manner to discuss career and retirement status. We would be appreciative of reasonable notice from any employee planning on retirement.”

The issue of cost

Selectman Doug Stevenson said, “Many of these come with a price tag.” Hult responded, “I don’t think too many of them do.” Stevenson continued, “We should look at how we are serving the taxpayer—where is the value to the taxpayer.”

Next Step

Chair Peter Scavongelli asked Goddard to discuss the report outside of the meeting with individual Selectmen who serve as liaisons to the relevant boards and committees on implementation strategy. ∆