After a brief bit of business in approving an application for alcohol use at a Nov. 17 private party in the Park House, the Board of Selectmen discussed policies and goals during a special meeting on Nov. 14.
The first discussion centered around the long-standing policy of the board not replying to questions asked of it during the public sessions of regular meetings. It has been left to the discretion of the First Selectman to reply to a simple specific question, which on occasion he does. Kuhnly noted that this inconsistency bothers him, and wondered if a more precise policy should/could be developed.
Selectman Lofink agreed that there are times when the board’s lack of response leads to frustration on both sides. As a specific example, he noted that during the sessions on the use of the former Evonsion property, “the board took a lot, and gave nothing back,” making it seem as if they were not concerned with the public’s concerns, so perhaps a remedy should be formulated.
Other selectmen noted that replying to some and not others can foster the view that residents are treated in a discriminatory fashion. If all questions are answered, on the other hand, the meeting is “hijacked” to those particular concerns. Once a question is answered, it becomes harder to not answer the next one and time is eaten up. Kuhnly noted that the consensus of first selectmen from surrounding towns was to simply just listen to all remarks and questions offered during public sessions.
Granby selectmen suggested possible changes to the policy, such as having the questions answered in the next meeting during either the First Selectman’s report if it is a legislative issue or the Town Manager’s report if it is an operational issue. It was also noted that residents could be told to email their concerns to the First Selectman, or consult with him during his Koffee with Kuhnly hours. If a decision is made to keep the status quo, a reminder announcement should be made at the beginning of the public session that no replies can be given at that time.
As a decision could not be reached, it was agreed that the selectmen should give the issue further thought. A second meeting on this topic will be announced.
In a second discussion, Kuhnly brought to light the fact that the annual budget goals have not been changed in many years. The Board reviewed the six goals as they stand now: to continue to maintain or increase the efficiency of town services by the use of new technology; to attempt to hold the line in the number of full-time and part-time employees by evaluating services and studying alternative service delivery methods; to meet payments for debt service by budgeting from the town’s capital reserve set-aside fund set in place to meet unanticipated costs; to pay by cash for some capital expenditures when deemed appropriate; to continue to update the town’s long-range operating and capital forecast models to better predict the impact on the mill rate; and to budget revenue sources reasonably and put in place competitive user fees to fund both essential and non-essential but desirable programs for non-mandatory services.
Perhaps in light of the changing populations, some alterations in these goals should/could be made. Granby has concerns for its aging infrastructure. It also has a growing population of older residents, but wants to attract young families, and these two groups have different needs.
Town Manager Ward noted that the main financial goal is set by the Board of Finance, and the departments work backward from that, with not much room for changes, but that he would take the departments’ goals under consideration and bring their priorities back to the selectmen in order for the board to try to align the dollars with the goals.
To that end, Selectman Ohannissian suggested a change in the budget workshop process. Instead of each selectman reiterating the budget to the various department heads, it was agreed that reversing the process would lead to a better understanding of where the budget shortcomings exist for each department. In the workshops, the department heads should bring their budget concerns to the various board representatives.
First Selectman Kuhnly and the board have become concerned with the efficiency of their communication with residents. They will consider what ways work best with the various age groups: email? FaceBook? Twitter? website? One thing was clear: they hope to have more public hearings on issues of concern to Granby’s citizens.