Pownal voters support hiring a town administrator


POWNAL — Voters gave town officials their near unanimous support Monday to take a closer look into potentially hiring a town administrator or manager.

The majority of Monday night's well-attended floor meeting drew little discussion from attendees. Voters will head to the polls today from 7 a.m. To 7 p.m. to take action on 25 articles and to elect officers.

Resident James Winchester said he submitted the petition for the town administrator article. He expressed his concern Selectboard members could be facing complicated issues in the coming years.

"I think if we continue having these people overworked and underpaid, we're not going to get the quality of people who will influence our town," Winchester said, addressing Town Meeting.

The town could hire a part-time administrator or share one with another town, Winchester said. He said the town has many positive selling points, but has an image problem. He also said the town needs to pursue more grants, new housing and other projects, and an administrator could be responsible for those efforts.

"Even if [Selectboard members] had the expertise to do it, I don't think they have the time," he said.

A few voters took issue with how the article was worded. The article asked whether voters should "approve the hiring" of an administrator to work under the direction of the Selectboard, but did not include any cost or scope to that initiative.

Chairman Richard Ryder called the article wording "vague" and said an article in support of an exploratory effort would be better.

"I've always been a firm believer that when a town starts handling millions of dollars, it could be a good idea," Ryder said of hiring a town manager.

Following discussion, Moderator Timothy Holbrook called for a hand vote on whether attendees agreed "to authorize Selectmen to study and explore possibilities and come up with specific recommendations and figures concerning the hiring of town manager," a nonbinding proposal supported by the majority of attendees.

The original article will still appear on today's ballot, but won't have any weight to it. Holbrook explained Town Meeting cannot remove a ballot item.

Tuesday's election, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

When they head to the polls today, voters will be asked to appropriate $889,720 for the town's fiscal 2017 general expenses, with $503,284.99 coming from taxes and $139,335.01 from surplus.

The proposed elementary school budget of $4,891,898 is a 1.62 percent increase over the current year.

Two candidates are running for a single three-year Selectboard seat: John Bushee, Jr. and incumbent Jason Olansky.

Three candidates are running for two one-year Selectboard seats: Ron Bisson, Brandon Jacobsen and incumbent Henry Strohmaier.

In uncontested races, Bonnie Cutler is running for lister; Christian Dickenson, auditor; Tammy Sohl, school director for three years; and Angie Rawling and Todd Steinhoff, school director for one year.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979.


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