My position on Articles 10 through 14

ARTICLE 10 – BY PETITION
This petition article seeks to implement one of the recommendations from the 2018 Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI) report. The study recommended more man-hours for the Litchfield Highway Department. Currently the department does not have the proper staffing to provide appropriate safety standards on the job.

The Highway Department is a critical department, and we need to ensure that its staffed correctly to support the day to day work; and future projects.    This is something that I have asked and supported for over the past several years.    The recent MRI report supports that cause, and I am 100% in support of the staffing.   Which the board was able to increase the staff in this recent budget season.

The direction around restructuring is still an open discussion, and we need to better understand the impacts to the other departments and services before implementing those changes. I do support the petition article.

ARTICLE 11 – BY PETITION (Amended version February 2, 2019 Deliberative Session) 
To see if the Town will vote to continue the Code Enforcement Officer, Health Inspector and Zoning Administrator as appointed positions within the Fire Department, or as determined by the Board of Selectmen

Voters need to understand the history, and why the board of selectmen decided to restructure those departments.    Back in 2013, the board was considering the reduction of building inspectors working hours; making it a part-time position.   I didn’t agree with that, because the individual that was in the role performed different functions and that allowed us to fill his day.  Reducing the hours would impact those areas; which were important, for example, the building inspector helped with maintaining the town’s facilities.

You can watch the dialogue that started the change:
Litchfield Board of Selectmen Meeting – Sept 14, 2013

You will see that our previous inspector was supportive of merging the inspection roles. For that change to happen and due to the RSAs that govern Fire Inspections, Fire Inspection are under the authority of the Fire Chief.  This started the journey and the changes in the department, and I believe still makes sense to continue the direction.  Continuing will allow us to streamline the services and remove duplicate efforts across departments.  So I do support this petition article.
 

ARTICLE 12 – BY PETITION 
To see if the Town will vote to discontinue the appointed office of Highway Agent and to authorize the Town to elect the Highway Agent. The current Highway Agent shall continue to hold the office until the 2020 Annual Town Meeting election, at which time, the Town will elect a Highway Agent. If adopted, the authority of the Town to elect the Highway Agent shall continue in effect until changed by a majority vote at an annual or special meeting.

Moving back from appointed to elected will put this department at risk.   When you elect a person for a role that’s as critical as the Road Agent; there is no process to ensure this person is qualified.   We have experienced this in years before our current Road Agent; which left our infrastructure crumbling.  Our current Road Agent started his journey as elected and we recognized the importance of having someone with his experience.  So we asked the voters to support moving the role to appointed; because we needed to always ensure that there was somebody in the role that was qualified and capable of performing the job within this important and critical department.   So I do not support the petition article.   

ARTICLE 13 – BY PETITION
To
see if the Town will vote to reverse the appointed office of part-time Fire Chief to an elected position. The current Fire Chief shall continue to hold the office until the 2020 Annual Town Meeting election, at which time, the Town will elect a part-time Fire Chief. If adopted, the authority of the Town to elect the Fire Chief shall continue in effect until changed by a majority vote at an annual or special meeting.

Moving back to ELECTED puts our community and this critical department at RISK.  I think the Fire Department Leadership and members that came out during deliberative said it best!!!   
Litchfield Town Deliberative Session – Feb 2, 2019

The town needs to ensure that we always have the most qualified person in this role, and moving back to an elected position does not allow that to happen. So I do not support this petition article.

ARTICLE 14 – BY PETITION (Amended version February 2, 2019 Deliberative Session) 
To see if the Town will continue to support the Town Administrator position.

Our town has grown, and to manage all the activity we need a professional municipal administrator.  Not someone to do everything but someone that can represent the Board of Selectmen during the business day and assist us with the day to day operations. Its impossible for an elected board member (who has a full-time job) to be available every day to ensure we don’t miss critical dates and other legal required activities.  So I do support the continuation of the Town Administrator’s position. 

In closing, people have said the voters don’t have any input to the process; that is the farthest from the truth. In the case of appointed versus elected, there’s always opportunities public feedback/input. We have no methods to vet a candidate; so if someone choose to run and is very popular, they could be next Fire Chief or Road Agent; and have no experience. Do we really want that for these important and critical positions?

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