Pownal Select Board mulls adding town adminstrator


POWNAL — Should elected officials consider creating a town administrator or town manager position?

That's one question set to go before voters at the annual Town Meeting on Feb. 29.

Select Board members seemed to be in agreement Thursday that it's something worth studying.

"I think we heard the Planning Board talk about this, and then the petition came in," said Vice-chairman Nelson Brownell, who ran Thursday's meeting in the absence of Chairman Richard Ryder. "And the board felt we would like to know more about what the rest of the people thought about that form of government."

The article asks whether the town should approve hiring a town administrator or manager to work under the Select Board.

Brownell noted that Shaftsbury has a town administrator and is about the same size as Pownal: The 2010 census pegged Pownal's population at 3,527 residents, and Shaftsbury's at 3,590.

Brownell said an administrator would be a "point person to handle bigger issues we don't have the time or resources for." An administrator would conduct research and work on various projects, and then make a recommendation to the Select Board, which would make final decisions.

Members agreed they needed more information, including what specific duties the administrator would be responsible for. There was also the question of cost, something members agreed many residents would ask. The warrant article doesn't include a dollar amount for funds to explore the issue or to set any compensation.

Members agreed it's worth exploring given the town is pursuing complex projects, like solar developments on brownfields.

"There may be advantages we don't see yet," said member Jason Olansky.

"And there may be some things we don't like," member Henry Strohmaier said. "But it needs to be researched."

In other business, the Select Board unanimously agreed to have a lawyer review a Windham, N.H., company's contract for a solar installation at a town-owned brownfield.

Triland Development would construct a 500-kilowatt solar installation on roughly five acres of the capped landfill next to the Pownal Waste Water Treatment Facility on Dean Road, the former site of the Pownal Tanning Company. Triland, in return for Pownal hosting the ground-mounted array, would pay the town $10,000 a year for 15 years, and then $12,000 a year for the following 10 years.

Brownell said he was advised that a lawyer make certain the town wouldn't be held accountable for any damages caused by the developer, given the site is lined to contain contamination.

The board will also request a firm proposal from Clean Energy Design Group Inc., of Springfield, Ill., for the town's transfer station on Maple Hill Road.

The meeting was filmed by Catamount Access Television.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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