November 20, 2023
Members Present: Dan Harvey, Todd Wilkins, Cynthia Browning, Jamie Paustian, and Glenn Sherman
Members Absent: None
Also Present: Nick Zaiac-Town Administrator, GNAT videographer, Tiffany and Christopher Mays, Firefighters- Brian Hawley, Keegan Hawley, James Hawley, Austin Weller ,Ryker Kozal, Lewis Douglas, Buzz Kanter, Don Keelan, Steve McClafferty, Tim and Lynn Williams, and Jenna Peeler, “Hunter”, Marty Irion, and Janet Barry (via Zoom)
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM, by Mr. Harvey.
Agenda Addition: Ms. Browning made a motion to add ZBA resignation of Alexander Burke to the agenda. Mr. Sherman seconded the motion. Motion carried.
Minutes of the Meeting of Nov. 6, 2023: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve the minutes of the meeting of Nov. 6, 2023, as presented. Mr. Sherman seconded the motion. Motion carried.
Public Comments: Tim Williams was at the meeting to ask for a portable pedestrian sign for the crosswalk in front of Town Hall, to make it safer for all the activities that take place in the area. It can be stored in the vestibule of Town Hall, which is always unlocked, and he will tell the various organizations where they can find it when needed. Mr. Zaiac will order the sign.
Don Keelan, and Steve McClafferty were at the meeting, and Town Auditor Jenna Peeler, on Zoom, to discuss the recent tax increase and to offer the Select Board help to prevent a similar issue going forward. Mr. Keelan had paperwork for the Board that he and the Board reviewed. An error on the “cash on hand” line from 2021 that carried over to 2022 was discussed. The need for the Board to have financial reports in a timely manner, so there is time to review them before the deadline for setting the tax rate was discussed, and Mr. Keelan and Mr. McClafferty will assist with interpreting figures and reviewing for errors. Mr. Paustian said he looks forward to the help. Ms. Peeler was on Zoom to discuss the recommendations she was asked to submit, and that Mr. Zaiac put on the screen for review. The immediate recommendations she suggests are timely and accurate reporting from the Treasurer’s office, and from the Lister’s office. And to implement Select Board and or Town Administrator’s oversight of this process. It was discussed that the Town’s finances are much more complex then they were years ago. It was discussed that the audit being performed by RHR Smith since the spring should be ready next week. Town Treasurer, Tiffany Mays, was at the meeting. She said that when she took office four years ago everything was done with paper and pencil. She was told by NEMRC that it would be a five year process to bring it up to the level it should be, and she has made enormous progress in three years. Her goal for 2023-2024 is to go down from thirty checking accounts to three, that will make reporting and transacting clearer. She said anything she doesn’t know she can easily learn, and NEMRC will be onsite soon to assist the process. It was discussed that she reconciles all the accounts and then Ms. Peeler also verifies them. It was discussed that that budget talks will start earlier than before, at the meeting of 12/18/2023. It was discussed that the Town is different than a business, that has continuous cash flow, and the Town has to run the entire year on the property taxes collected in the fall. Ms. Browning said she is willing to look at everything and reevaluate the system, but also noted that Arlington has been conservative and careful with the budget, with having sinking funds established to pay for bigger items that some towns have not implemented so then have to borrow from the bank for large purchases, and that the Town borrows from itself, including interest, to cover needs before taxes are collected, saving money from having to have bank loans. The need for the Listers to have the figures to the Board on time was discussed. The Listers are elected officials, and the Select Board cannot govern them. Mr. Zaiac said the State recently passed a law to study the outline of a new institutional set-up with hired State assessors that could mean changes in the future. Voters could also request hired assessors instead of having the Lister office. Mrs. Williams asked why there are no longer three internal auditors that had been here in the past. Ms. Peeler said the auditors were not qualified and did not have the bandwidth to do what needed to be done. They recommended hiring a CPA, but she did not work out as expected. Then an RFP was created for an internal type auditor position and Ms. Peeler was hired. Mrs. Williams said hiring a Treasurer makes sense, and Ms. Mays said that idea was put before the voters last year and voted down, and hiring out for the position could easily triple the salary currently budgeted. Ms. Mays said the $400,000 budget increase was approved by the voters, and the increase in taxes is due to that increased budget and not raising taxes last year. Ms. Browning did not fully agree with that statement, and it was decided that that further conversations will happen at the 12/18/2023 meeting.
New Business: Resignation Letter: Ms. Browning made a motion to accept the resignation of Alexander Burke from the ZBA and send a letter of thanks for his service. Mr. Wilkins seconded the motion. Motion passed unanimously.
A liquor license application approval was tabled because there was no date on the application.
Town Administrator Report: Mr. Zaiac said he has been focusing on cleaning up Irene era FEMA Grants errors, and focused on accounting matters that have been previously discussed.
WD Warrants and Orders: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve Water Department Warrant #22, dated 11/17/2023, in the amount of $58,849.20, with $56,199 to MSK for the Lead Line study that will be reimbursed. Mr. Sherman seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
Warrants and Orders: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve Warrant #22, in the amount of $90,904.00 for the Town voted Appropriations to area organizations. Mr. Wilkins seconded; motion carried unanimously. Ms. Browning made a motion to approve Warrant #23, from the General account, dated 11/7/2023 in the amount of $299,297.21, with largest elements being the bank loan payment of $259,586.97,GMP for $2000.00, FD New Equipment for $4,646.79, and Peckham for winter sand and gravel for $8,990.21. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously. A CRF Warrant to MSK was tabled until updates are given about the bridge study and what items the invoice covers.
All Other Business: None
Executive Session: Ms. Browning made a motion that premature discussion of legal and personnel issues would cause the municipality to suffer substantial disadvantage. Seconded by Mr. Sherman. Ms. Browning made a motion to enter into Executive Session for discussion of personnel and legal issues and to allow Mr. Zaiac to remain in the room. Seconded by Mr. Wilkins. The Board entered Executive Session at 8:32PM. The Board exited Executive Session at 9:51PM. Mr. Wilkins made a motion to reinstate Mike King as Arlington Fire Chief, and to interpret procurement policy to state that at least two chiefs of the Arlington Fire Department need to sign for purchases. Mr. Sherman seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
All Other Business: None
Mr. Sherman made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion carried. Meeting adjourned at 9:52PM.