The Board of Selectmen has given Town Manager Jodi Ross a set of 11 goals for 2016, finalizing the wording of those goals on Tuesday night.
She was initially presented with a set of 14 goals, but that number was quickly reduced to 13. That first removed goal referenced parking, traffic and pedestrian safety in the town center, but Selectman Andrea Peraner-Sweet indicated that work running smoothly regarding the Westford Town Center Traffic and Parking Study.
Later, Ross recommended the removal of a goal discussing streamlining town operations and controlling expenses while maintaining services, indicating that this also was an ongoing process. The Selectmen agreed to that goal with no discussion, but the final goal removed from the list was taken off only after a lengthy exchange.
That goal requested an investigation of combining town and school facility services and what costs and benefits such a merger might have on the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.
Ross told the board that while she is assessing factors for the next several fiscal years as she finalizes the proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget over the next few months, the continuously changing nature of those factors would make any early analysis meaningless and would also be a distraction on work toward the next budget.
Selectman Mark Kost was the largest champion of the proposed goal, indicating that the merger was likely the last significant large efficiency measure the town could pursue and an analysis of factors relating to a potential merger would help the Selectmen if a future decision on that merger was needed.
At an impasse, Selectman Kelly Ross indicated that he would discuss the matter further with School Committee Chairman Arthur Benoit.
There was also an amendment of one goal, requesting that the Town Manager only support the Commission on Disability in identifying Americans with Disability Act issues. Initially, she was requested to also address the issues, but it was unclear if this would be feasible as it is currently unknown what issues might need to be tackled.
Two retained goals in the list of 11 were also separate agenda items on the Selectmen’s docket on Tuesday.
The issue of the former Eric’s/Drew Gardens property and potential redevelopment of that property is scheduled to be an agenda item on Nov. 10, as Groton resident Ebrahim Masalehdan is scheduled to appear before the board to discuss his interest in purchasing the property.
A finalized purchase and sale agreement is expected next week, leaving the Board of Selectmen until February to decide on whether they will pursue their right of first refusal on the sale under an agricultural restriction on the property.
Addressing the energy aggregation program, a portion of a larger energy savings initiative, was also discussed.
In the energy aggregation program, the town is seeking to provide a voluntary fixed rate for electricity, using a program provided by National Grid.
However, Jodi Ross informed the board that fluctuating energy costs could save money or possibly cost money if the market rate for energy dips below the agreed fixed rate.
After requesting guidance from the Selectmen on what rate she and Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti should pursue during the conclusion of negotiations next month, the Selectmen advised Ross and Mangiaratti to use their best judgment in the matter.
Other goals included controlling healthcare costs, issues with the Town Farm building, working with the 12 North Main Street Task Force, presenting the findings of a study currently being undertaken by the Economic Development Committee, following the Selectmen’s guidance on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, evaluating the ongoing resident communication survey and updating the town’s personnel handbook.
Earlier in the meeting, the issue of sidewalks again came before the board, this time in a presentation of initial findings from the Pedestrian Safety Committee’s analysis of which streets are most in need of a sidewalk.
Pedestrian Safety Committee Chairman Chris Barrett told the board that the findings were preliminary, an assessment that was shared by several selectmen.
Although no action was taken on the findings, there appeared to be support for potentially pursuing a professionally-led study at some point in the future.
During the meeting, Kelly Ross was also named as the board’s new chairman, replacing Scott Hazelton. Peraner-Sweet was elected as vice-chair and Don Siriani was elected as clerk.