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Government Transparency Versus Infrastructure Limitations Discussed For Town’s 62 Boards

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The following is part of a transcript of the March 3, 2015 Westford Board of Selectmen meeting. Click here other parts of the meeting. You can watch a video of the full meeting at Westfordcat.org (approximate time code on video in parentheses.)

9:18 p.m. (1:49:00) Next was Article 25, a citizen’s petition requesting more transparency in government and a committee to pursue transparency in government. Paul Cully said that the petition would expand the website to all committees in town and all committees must have pages on the website.

Cully also noted that committees would be required to include open forums where non-members could add agenda items.

Cully added additional information on the petitioned article, and noted that it was never his hope that additional burden or cost be given to the town.

He discussed the petition with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and said this petition was not a big deal, he was just trying to make the town a better place.

Selectman Kelly Ross said that committees are doing a good job and was concerned about requiring “why” they came to decisions.

Kelly Ross also noted that this would make it harder to get volunteers.

Town Manager Jodi Ross said in the original petitioned warrant article, the Town Manager would be responsible for this.

She said that openness and transparency is really important to Westford. However, there are 62 active committees. Putting this level of requirement would hurt volunteerism.

A dedicated part-time person would be needed in several departments.

She noted that the town complies with open meeting law and said that Cully doesn’t understand the impact on resources.

Selectman Don Siriani applauded the effort to add more exposure to town government, but said that the intensity of this request was unlikely.

He also said trying to extract why people make the decisions they do would impact meetings.

Selectman Scott Hazelton said that transparency is important, but also shared concerns over minutes where there is no town support. He was also concerned about the committee requiring transparency including Cully and two people chosen by Cully would make things difficult.

Cully said he put his name in because he was afraid no one would apply to the committee. He then asked if the portion requiring “why” decisions were made was removed if the Selectmen could support the article.

Selectman Kelly Ross said he would need more information and that Town Manager Jodi Ross had made several good points.

Finance Committee Chairman Mark Kost said the Finance Committee voted against this Article unanimously due to a variety of reasons, including keeping up websites.

Cully said he misunderstood that the Finance Committee’s opinion on this, with Selectman Kelly Ross going back to the “why” being difficult to ascertain.

There was then another discussion over the impact on town staff regarding the web pages.

The motion was not recommended unanimously.

9:38 p.m. (2:09:00) The remaining articles were unanimously recommended.

9:40 p.m. (2:11:00) Minutes were approved. The consent agenda was approved. Selectman Scott Hazelton provided an update.

9:42 p.m. (2:13:00) A request to increase non-union pay classification by 2.5% for FY’ 2016 was approved.

A request to support the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project’s FY’ 2016 budget was approved following a question by Selectman Andrea Peraner-Sweet asking what would happen if they did not approve the funding.

Town Manager Jodi Ross gave an update on an upcoming Middlesex 3 Coalition event on March 10.

A request to approve nearly $80,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection was approved, as was a request to appoint Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti as acting Town Manager from March 11 to March 17.

There was also a request to approve consulting services with BETA Group to review various school intersections in an amount not to exceed $22,800. Town Engineer Paul Staratt gave an explanation. It was unanimously approved.

The reading of correspondence was waived.

The meeting adjourned at 9:51 p.m.

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