Upton Selectmen and Residents Discuss Petitions
By Michelle Sanford Staff Reporter/Columnist · April 10, 2017
On March 28, the Upton Board of Selectmen met with residents Jim Floyd and Deborah Lazarz to discuss the citizen's petitions the two are helping to see through concerning the Town Manager Act.
The two petitions have been placed on the May 4 Town Meeting Warrant. A draft of the warrant shows wording for Petition 1, or Article 31, includes the "Town of Upton will vote to form a temporary commission for the comprehensive review and rewrite of the Town Manager Act..." The final paragraph states no Town Manager will be solicited, chosen, or hired until the revised Act has been approved by state legislature.
The other citizen's petition, Petition 2 or Article 32, is requesting to replace certain sections of the Act with amended wording concerning such things as the Town Manager's responsibilities and authority.
"The main objective is to address citizen's concerns to make sure there's proper checks and balances in place," said Lazarz of Petition 2. "It's about increasing transparency, accountability, and the efficiency of our Town Manager and government." She added the changes will also allow more utilization of town boards and committees to collaborate with the Town Manager. The intent, she stated, is not to abolish the position nor is it a personal agenda of one individual.
Floyd went on, "The idea here is now that we've tried the position on per se, now would be the right time to take a look at how the Town Manager Act was constructed and whether or not we felt it would be beneficial to make some tweaks and modifications," he said.
Selectman Robert Fleming stated the petitions were confusing because they contradicted each other. "The first one, if adopted, says the Town Manager search shall stop; that supersedes anything that will happen in Petition 2." Floyd explained during the Town Meeting the group would propose the second petition be voted on first. "If everything is addressed in Petition 2, we could dismiss Petition 1."
Fleming stated it would have been more beneficial if they had first come before the Selectmen to discuss forming a committee so that proper analysis and findings from others involved with the Town Manager could have been presented to citizens. He added nearly all the amendments the group made to the Act in Petition 2 reduce the authority of the Town Manager. "Before the Town Manager can do anything they have to consult with the Personnel Board?" he questioned. "The Personnel Board's an appointed board with restricted authority." Another amendment he said states the Town Manager is no longer an arbitrator for collective bargaining. "That's one of the fundamental purposes of a Town Manager," said Fleming.
Lazarz reiterated the amendments were meant to provide a better system of checks and balances when it came to managing the town. Floyd added the intent was to reengage with some of the town boards and committees.
Floyd also said he was pleased the discussion took place because it gave him a better understanding after hearing the Selectmen's input. At the end of the meeting, the Selectmen agreed to hold a public workshop to have further dialogue.