Norton Select Board Considers Bonuses to Attract Town Planner

The Norton Select Board meeting covered a broad agenda, but the most pressing topic was the ongoing challenge of hiring a town planner, a position that has been vacant for 15 out of the past 21 months. The board considered a proposal to offer substantial bonuses to attract and retain highly qualified candidates for this critical role. This proposal, which included a 15-30% bonus after the second year and a 50% bonus after the third year of employment, sparked debate over its feasibility, legality, and the potential implications for union contracts. Additionally, the meeting addressed the need for greater transparency and public access to meeting materials on the town’s website, particularly during budget season. Infrastructure updates, including the Elm Street sewer improvement project and the Barrows Court drainage issue, were also points of discussion. The board emphasized the importance of involving the community in addressing these concerns and recognized the urgency of resolving the flooding issues affecting residents.

The absence of a town planner has caused a strain on the town’s planning board, leading to inefficiency and an overreliance on volunteer guidance. The board acknowledged the difficulty in finding suitable candidates for the planner position and discussed various strategies to attract potential planners. They considered offering incentives such as signing and longevity bonuses as one potential solution to the competitive hiring environment. During public comments, it was revealed that the lack of a full-time planner has had a considerable impact on town operations, and the suggestion to provide administrative support to address the backlog of work was made.

The board also debated the implementation of a new fee structure for building permits, aiming to alleviate burdens on homeowners, especially for smaller projects. A contractor presented a comparison of current fees with those of neighboring towns, proposing the elimination of the base fee to create a fairer and more equitable system. The board agreed that further deliberation and an official proposal were necessary before moving forward with changes.

Additionally, the meeting included a discussion on the Elm Street sewer improvement project. Representatives from Westland Engineers provided an overview, detailing the project’s background, funding, and challenges. The board expressed concern about financial implications and the viability of the project, which is important for the redevelopment of the property and infrastructure improvements in the area. Discussion also touched on the need for borings and subsurface investigations, finalizing design reports, filing permits, and conducting public outreach with the goal of completing the project by October, pending town meeting authorization.

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The board discussed the scheduling of a special town meeting for May 13th, 2024, which was unanimously approved. They also addressed the ballot questions for the April 2024 town election, endorsing and approving the questions as written. Discussions regarding the annual town meeting articles, such as the Chapter 90 Transportation Aid Program and tree service for the highway department, were postponed until the next meeting.

Another area of discussion was the Barrows Court drainage problem. The board heard from residents about flooding issues, with one suggesting an alternative approach to address the problem. A plan for resolving the flooding was debated, including multiple phases of work and better communication with residents. The town manager provided an update on the grant application related to the dam’s impact on flooding and plans for long-term road repairs once the issue is resolved.

The board also tackled the topic of transparency, expressing the need to improve public access to meeting materials on the town’s website. A detailed presentation compared Norton’s practices with those of other towns, highlighting areas for improvement. The board considered the possibility of a joint meeting to review the budget in detail and the potential need for service reductions if additional revenue is not secured. The planning of a town cleanup day and the repair of damage caused by a truck to the town common were also discussed.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Town Administrator:
Michael Yunits
City Council Officials:
Kevin Snyder, Steven Hornsby, Alec E. Rich III, Megan Artz, Denise Luciano, Jennifer Reid (Office Administrator)

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