Groveland Voters to Decide Next Evolution of Local Government at Town Meeting May 24

Groveland Town Hall. (File photograph.)

Former Groveland Selectman Joseph D’Amore says the town has evolved greatly since its founding in 1850, but relatively low citizen involvement in recent years suggests more changes are need.

D’Amore, a force behind expanding the board of selectmen to five members, tells WHAV volunteerism may be up in some areas such as church and nonprofit work, but down in local government.

“This is not a COVID thing. This is a long-term trend that we are seeing across most municipalities throughout the Commonwealth,” he says.

D’Amore says today’s town government was largely shaped by a change in structure approved at Town Meeting in 1954, followed decades later by adding a finance director and then expanding the Board of Selectmen to five members in 2014. The next logical step is the hiring of a town administrator, he says, and voters will have a chance to weigh in on the concept at Town Meeting Monday, May 24, 7 p.m., at the Dr. Elmer S. Bagnall School, 253 School St. The two related articles are among nearly 40 articles on the schedule that night. He says the appointing authority would remain the Board of Selectmen, but the administrator would have an advisory role.

“We have entire committees and boards that are literally not staffed or understaffed. Our town struggles to be able to pull together enough people to have quorums when you do have a committee,” he explains.

While the town administrator may not be able to control vacancies because of state statutes, he says, the administrator can at least manage employees.

“We do have personnel bylaws. Those bylaws are not going to be terminated, but they’re going to be fulfilled by a town administrator that will manage personnel and a lot of employees will actually have a boss that they can call a boss or not a boss, I suppose, but someone they can say this person is in charge in Town Hall,” he notes.

He adds there is increased liability these days and well-intentioned selectmen should not feel compelled to get involved in a negotiation, order equipment or decide a grievance. Instead, he says, selectmen should operate more like the School Committee with other administrators handling day-to-day tasks.

It will actually require two steps to complete the transition to a town administrator. D’Amore explains the legislature must give its permission to eliminate the local finance bylaw because it conflicts with the proposed town administrator bylaw.

Besides D’Amore, the Government Town Study Committee was comprised of John Osbourne, attorney John Christopher, former Selectwoman Bette Gorski, Andrew Cox and longtime Conservation Commissioner Mike Dempsey.

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