The Bourne Board of Selectmen took some time recently to ponder what its goals will be for the coming year.
During a brainstorming session that lasted close to two hours on June 5, the selectmen, along with town administrator Thomas M. Guerino, settled on five topics that they feel will need particular attention over the next 12 months.
For the coming year, the board and Mr. Guerino plan to pay particular attention to town finances, economic and community development, environmental issues, zoning enforcement, and bettering relations between the selectmen and the administrator.
Discussion of each item generated several subcategories that the selectmen and Mr. Guerino felt were imperative to investigate and address. Under the goal of town finances, board chairman Peter J. Meier said there should be discussion on whether the town needs to revisit its current policy of maintaining 12 percent of its cash reserves in the free cash and stabilization accounts. Mr. Meier said that the Bourne Finance Committee is considering a reduction in the percentages for both accounts while being careful not to jeopardize the town’s bond rating.
Board member Linda M. Zuern noted that, back in March, Lyn Foster of Unibank had advised the selectmen not to change their policy. Fellow member Donald J. Pickard said that he understood Ms. Foster’s message to mean the town simply had to adhere to its financial policy, whatever the policy stated.
Ms. Zuern disagreed, saying Ms. Foster warned that if Bourne reduced its free cash percentage policy, Standard & Poors would know what the town was doing, and that could threaten the town’s bond rating.
“That’s just another way of getting around it. They’re not stupid, they’d pick up on that right away,” she said.
Mr. Guerino said that it makes sense for the town to review its fiscal policies on a regular basis every three, five or seven years. He noted that the town’s financial policies have not been reviewed or adjusted since 2006.
Under the broad heading of environmental issues, board member Steven F. Mealy suggested that the town initiate a move to eliminate plastic shopping bags. He said that many people use the nonbiodegradable bags for trash rather than recycle them and they populate landfills. Mr. Mealy noted that Provincetown attempted to pass a similar measure earlier this year but failed. He added that there are cities and towns across the state and country that have been successful, and he does not think it would be difficult to pass such a bylaw once it is drafted.
“I’d even like to take that a step further and try to get other towns to do the same thing, make the entire Cape shopping bag-free,” he said.
It was decided that wastewater and waste reduction would fit under the broader goal of environmental issues. Under wastewater, discussion centered on keeping pace with the work being done by the Cape Cod Commission on the “208 plan,” the water quality management plan under the federal Clean Water Act. The 208 plan identifies possible solutions for water quality problems confronted by towns across Cape Cod, which was designated as a 208 plan area in 1978.
Mr. Mealy was also the proponent of the goal to establish better unity between the town administrator and the selectmen. Mr. Mealy said he did not mean to infer anything specifically negative between the two parties with his suggestion. He added that he was not certain how to increase that unity, but he mentioned there might be some exercises that would help set up “better communications and better expectations of what each of us want from the other.”
Mr. Guerino suggested that zoning enforcement could be a sub-category under economic/community development. Ms. Zuern, however, said that she felt it should be a category unto itself.
The meeting was chaired by Mr. Guerino, who was evaluated by the board last month on his accomplishments or progress on goals established in June of last year. Those goals were emergency preparedness, wastewater planning, and financial issues. The town administrator was given a score of 2.6 out of a possible 4, and a rating of “strong performance” by selectmen for that part of his evaluation.
Unlike last, year when the board settled on their three goals in less than an hour, Thursday’s meeting ran more than an hour and 45 minutes. By the end, after much discussion, selectmen and Mr. Guerino had addressed only two of the five goals, town finances and environmental issues. The group agreed that there was room for discussion on all five goals, but planned to focus attention on the remaining three at their next meeting. That follow-up meeting has not yet been scheduled.