Buckfield analysis to be ready for January 2018 reveal

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BUCKFIELD — Interim Town Manager Brad Plante intends on having the final governance analysis and policy ready for the Board of Selectmen’s first meeting of 2018, he told the board at its Dec. 5 meeting.

The highway crew has replaced two of the “Welcome to Buckfield” signs and plans on adding two more next spring.

Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development has requested an inventory of the town’s nonproductive industrial and manufacturing sites. Plante said, “it will be useful to have this inventory on hand,” and asked the Buckfield community, “anyone with information related to vacant or unused industrial or manufacturing sites contact the Town Manager’s office … .”

Plante shared the Insurances Services Office report recently received by the town with its “public protection classification” that quantifies and determines a community’s overall fire protection.

“This rating information is available to insurance companies that offer coverage in the town,” Plante explained.  The scale ranges from 1-10, with one being the best rating. Buckfield received a five along with 73 other communities.  This is because of placement of fire hydrants and distance to the station station, the distinction between volunteer and full-time firefighters, as well as incidental variables such as proximity of local bodies of water.

CPA and auditor representing Smith and Associates out of Yarmouth, Amanda Schultz Brown, appeared before the board and reviewed in detail her firm’s management of town assets and answered questions from the board and audience.

She explained the company regularly examines how the board exercises its mechanisms of control and offers recommendations.  Schultz Brown suggested a way to appropriate funds within the town budget in better accordance with best financial practices and encouraged the management homogenization of Buckfield’s other governmental funds, such as capital project funds like the one that finances firetrucks, under one accounting system.

She also reported the general fund balance at the end of FY2017 to be $525,763.  The board concluded that Shultz Brown’s visit had been very informative and tacitly proposed having her back regularly.

The board’s discussion of its review of the personnel handbook, and how best to update it, found at issue the crux between modernization and availability.  There were recent changes made to the policy and Plante stated that the approaching governance analysis also contained “a laundry list of personnel changes that I’m recommending and also that were recommended by the [Maine Municipal Authority].”

The review process of the handbook policy that had begun in February had not yet been closed so new hires were given an outdated handbook that didn’t reflect current policy.  The initiative’s intent was to update an entirely new handbook rather than to do so gradually.

Board Chair Maida Demers-Dobson said, “It would seem to me that’s its more practical as things are agreed to, to sign them off and include them [in the handbook], otherwise we get bogged down … if we wait for the whole thing are we ever going to be done?”

Selectman Adelbert Dunn advocated for a digitization of the handbook, allowing it to be updated and amended instantly.  Dunn called it, “operating off a living document,” so that updates don’t need to be continually reprinted and policy can retain its validity, “some of our stuff is always going to change” said Dunn.

Town Clerk Cindy Dunn retorted that “not everyone has a computer.”  Debate on the matter continued for a short time until Selectwoman Cheryl Coffman moved to, “take no further action of the town of Buckfield personnel policies and procedures handbook and deem the biennial review of said handbook that commenced February 17, 2017, complete.” The motion was seconded by Demers-Dobson and passed unanimously, finishing personnel policy matters until at least January 2018.

Concerning the continued search for a permanent town manager, the board has set the 14th of December at 3 p.m. to hold an executive session for the review of resumes and selection of first-round candidates.

The board established both June 12 and 16 for the annual town meeting to be held in two parts and conducted final business, approving the actionable warrants.

abrown@advertiserdemocrat.com