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Minutes - April 13, 2009
MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2009
7:00 P.M.

SELECTMEN PRESENT:  Cole, LaMantia, Marsland, McManus, Wilkins

OTHERS PRESENT:  Town Administrator James Merriam, Assistant Town Administrator Nan Balmer, David Ryan, JoAnne Brown, Jack Brown, Pat Stackhouse, David Purdy, Ray Jefferson, Rain Ryder, and others.

MEETING CALLED TO ORDER at 7:00 p.m. by Chairman Wilkins.


Ms. Brown asked for the Board’s support for the restoration of $14,000 to the Brooks Free Library budget in order to maintain the present hours.  She noted that the Trustees are prepared to make an amendment to the budget at Town Meeting.  Mr. McManus responded that this is currently one of the items under consideration by the Budget Sub-Committee.


A.      Approve minutes –
1.      March 23, 2009 Regular Meeting

Mr. McManus moved to approve the Consent Agenda and the recommended actions thereon.  Mr. Cole seconded the motion and the motion carried by a unanimous vote.  


A.      Presentation by Ray Jefferson on Special Town Meeting articles pertaining to codification of by-laws

Mr. Jefferson, Chairman of the By-Law/Charter Review Committee, discussed Special Town Meeting Articles 1 and 2 to accept the final codified General and Zoning By-Laws.  He explained that the codified by-laws were developed under a contract with General Code as a CPC project.  Mr. Jefferson noted that General Code’s attorneys and staff reviewed, renumbered and reorganized the by-laws.  He further explained that changes to the by-laws include corrections of inconsistent language and redundancies.  Mr. Jefferson took questions and comments from the Board.


A.  Town Administrator’s Plan on custodial services

Mr. Merriam explained the proposal to reorganize custodial staffing (see attached) and noted that we are awaiting opinion from labor counsel.  He took questions from the Board on the proposal.

Mr. Ryder, President of the Harwich Employees Association, reported that he has sought legal counsel and has been advised that this proposal is not legal due to the fact that their union’s contract has a Foreman’s position in it.  He stressed that the position must be posted and he added that they are prepared to file a grievance.

Chairman Wilkins stated that no action would be taken tonight as they are awaiting opinion from labor counsel.


A.      Vote Selectmen’s positions on Annual Town Meeting warrant articles

Mr. Merriam reported that the final version of Article 35 on the Sign By-Law is waiting for a vote from the Planning Board.  Mr. McManus requested to be provided with a copy of the existing Sign By-Law.

The Budget Subcommittee noted that they will try to find a budget source to restore the Library’s budget.

B.      Vote Selectmen’s positions on Special Town Meeting warrant articles

Mr. Marsland moved to indefinitely postpone Article 11, Authorize Use of Texiera Property for Agricultural Purposes.  Mr. McManus seconded the motion.  Mr. Marsland noted that the Agricultural Commission does not want to pursue this at this time.  The motion carried by a 4-1-0 vote with Mr. Cole in opposition.

Mr. McManus moved that the Board of Selectmen support the Community Preservation Committee’s plan to offer an amendment on Town Meeting floor to Article 4, the Town budget, for the purposes of including $50,000 into the building maintenance budget for the purposes of doing restoration work to the exterior of the Old Youth and Rec Building better known as the Harwich Center School Building.  Mr. LaMantia seconded the motion.  The motion carried by a 4-1-0 vote with Mr. Marsland in opposition.

B.      Comcast breach of contract letter

Mr. Marsland moved that the Board approve sending two letters to Comcast, one regarding the Harwich Renewal License Non-Compliance - Section 5.2, and the other, Harwich Renewal License Letter of Credit - Section 7.21.  Mr. Cole seconded the motion and the motion carried by a unanimous vote.


A.  RFP for affordable housing for Old Rec/West Harwich School sites

The Board agreed that the Town Administrator should proceed with the RFP and requested to be provided with operational costs, both fixed and estimated variable costs.


Mr. Merriam delivered the following report to the Board:

Liquor licenses
Tuesday morning following your vote to deem Circadia as having forfeited their All Season pouring license, Ann Steidel informed me that Harwichport Pizza and Talk of the Town have applied for that license. The hearing is scheduled for April 21st.

BOS vote to post signs on Mass Highway section of Rt 137
After driving the area this morning, there is no doubt that both signs would have to be placed on MassHighway property.~ I have my MassHighway contact in Boston looking into this for me and he will advise me on the best way to approach District 5 on this.~~I suspect that the reengineering of the corridor will provide for left hand turn only lanes at Long Pond Drive and Pleasant Bay Road.~I'll keep you posted.

Regulations for rental housing
Nan and I met with Paula Champagne, who gave us a history of rental inspections.  Our General By-laws Article 4 Public Safety, Part 3 Rental of Dwellings-Regulations, 4-301 has a one time only registration for premises rented for 90 days or less with no fee listed and a $20 penalty for violations.(targeted for party houses) This was written around 1970. I’ve asked Paula to work with the Board of Health to draft an update that would look for serious code violations. My proposal would be for revenues to cover inspectional services.

Chamber of Commerce
The 2009 Chamber of Commerce brochures are now available. We have copies in the office for distribution.  I met with Sandy Davidson and Richard Waystack re: Economic Development issues. Attached are minutes from their last meeting in which website enhancement, permitting and regionalism was discussed.

Request by Little League for Carwash behind Town Hall
I checked with the permitting depts and Craig Wiegand - no one has a problem with the Little League car wash.~ I have called them and they will provide the non-profit certificate and certificate of insurance - the "event" is scheduled for Saturday, May 16th.

Selectmen Budget Subcommittee
The Subcommittee met with representatives from the Harwichport and Chase Libraries to inquire about amending the requested article given the Town’s limited finances. Both Libraries will discuss with their trustees and report back next week.

Municipal electric bids
Maggie Downey has informed us that the bids have been delayed until April 28th because three prospective bidders sought an extension.

Selectman McManus, Town Engineers Joe Borgesi and Paul Sweetser, Chief Mason and I met with Bob Doane to explore additional parking along Parallel Street, and locate a crosswalk in front of the Old Rec Building. We anticipate HJT’s review of the draft lease by next Monday.   Joe Borgesi and I anticipate having a draft Affordable Housing spec for the Old Rec and West Harwich school sites for your review within the week.

Old Rec Building Exterior repairs
The Community Preservation Committee invited me to attend their 4/9/09 meeting to discuss funding for exterior repairs to the Old Rec Building. With the Finance Committee voting to delete the CPC article for $50,000, CPC voted to seek a budget amendment under Article 4 the Operating budget, line item 35 - Repairs to Public Buildings in an amount of $50,000 funded from CPC (Historic). Selectman Cole also attended.

STM Article 17- Surplus Revenue
Jack Brown brought to my attention last night that three articles listed in Article 17 are CPC and should not be used to fund the 2 cruisers. They are:
      1)~~~~~~ playground equipment Brooks Park 1,207
      2)~~~~~~ reconstruction tennis courts~~~~~~~~~~~ ~    840
      3)~~~~~~ Bocce Court Brooks Park~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~    66
Total ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~    ~~             2,113
New Article 17 balance~~~~~~~~ $56,886


A.      Chairman’s Public Statement on Town Administrator’s Evaluation

Chairman Wilkins made the following statement:

The annual evaluation of the Harwich Town Administrator, Mr. James Merriam, was conducted by the Board of Selectmen using a Board approved evaluation form and process specifically designed to review the performance of a Municipal Chief Executive.  The process for the evaluation, adopted as policy by the Board on December 16, 2006, provides the Board the opportunity to assess the performance of the Town Administrator in the areas of Management Analysis and Public Relations, as well as the accomplishments of short term goals and objectives.  Through the process, Board members can recognize the Town Administrator’s strengths, offer both positive and negative feedback and suggest any areas that require improvements.  As the first step of the evaluation, the Town Administrator submitted to the Board a report outlining his accomplishments for the preceding 12 months.  Using the evaluation form for Municipal Chief Executive, each Selectman submitted to the Town Administrator his individual evaluation of the Administrator’s performance on the basis of the Town Administrator’s report and each individual Selectman’s personal interaction with the Town Administrator.  The Board met with the Town Administrator in public session and reviewed his performance.  Said public evaluation was followed by the submission of an Action Plan in which the Town Administrator responded to the Selectmen’s concerns regarding his performance.  The plan was submitted on April 6, 2009.  To measure some aspects of his performance, each Selectman rated the Administrator on a scale ranging from Unacceptable to Excellent on 28 indicators profiling performance attributes of a Municipal Chief Executive.  Mr. Merriam received 110 checks ranging from Acceptable to Excellent and 26 checks ranging from Unacceptable to Poor.  Narrative comments were made by the Selectmen to support each of the 28 indicators.  All 5 Selectmen gave the Town Administrator high marks for putting together a financial team that enabled the Town to craft a 5 year financial plan and set a financial course for the Town.  Because much of the evaluation has to do with the individual Selectman’s personal interaction with the Administrator, as can be expected, differing opinions and expectations as to the Town Administrator’s performance prevailed.  With that as the framework, concerns were registered by some Selectmen regarding the Town Administrator’s operational, planning and organizational performance.  Specific concern regarding the Town Administrator’s preparation for Town Meeting, knowledge of the Charter, and participation by staff at meetings was noted.  Additional questions regarding the Town Administrator’s handling of central dispatch and health insurance were brought forth.  Mr. Merriam was praised for building a strong working relationship with the Superintendent of Schools, community agencies, as well as neighboring communities.  Rated on how well the municipal services provided to the Town of Harwich meet the needs of the community, all Selectmen rated such services, for example, Police, Fire, Recreation, and land use, as  Acceptable to Excellent.  The Action Plan submitted to the Board addresses some of the concerns raised by the Board during the evaluation process.  As a suggestion, perhaps during the next year, each Selectman should endeavor to resolve differences in performance with the Town Administrator.

Mr. Cole stated that it is his understanding that the Action Plan submitted is preliminary and it is yet to be worked out precisely what the goals are that the Board expects the Town Administrator to work on in the next year.  He commented that a brief list of measurable goals would be a significant part of the evaluation.  Chairman Wilkins noted that Mr. Merriam will submit his goals and objectives to the Board on April 27, 2009 with a related timeline for the Board’s review.

Mr. McManus stated that there was another newspaper article on Friday regarding the resignation of the Chairman and the upcoming election and people are questioning if what the Board has done is appropriate.  He stated that he would like an independent review of the events because he is being accused of a cover up.  Chairman Wilkins requested that Vice-Chairman Marsland chair the meeting at this point and recused himself.  Mr. LaMantia agreed that there are questions floating around.  Vice-Chairman Marsland agreed that it would be appropriate to do this but did not want to spend a lot of money.

Mr. McManus moved that we authorize the Town Administrator to contact the appropriate state officials and explore having the review done.  Mr. Cole seconded the motion and the motion carried by a 4-0-0 vote.


Mr. McManus moved to adjourn at 9:02 p.m.  Mr. Cole seconded the motion and the motion carried by a unanimous vote.

Respectfully submitted,

Ann Steidel
Recording Secretary

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