Finance Committee member Bill Stevens explained the confusion with the assessor's salary.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Selectmen were under fire Tuesday night for signing a contract they didn't have money to fund.
At a special town meeting at the Elementary School, many residents were frustrated that the board had signed a contract with the assessor for $8,500 more than allocated in the budget.
According to the Selectmen, the former interim town administrator negotiated the contract believing there was room in that budget line but later discovered the line included the assistant assessor.
"This doesn't happen on a regular basis," Selectman William Prendergast said. "It was an error on our part by not realizing that the numbers given to us included the assistant."
Resident Peter Gallant alleged that the move was subverting the annual town meeting, where attendance numbers are greater.
"I find it very disturbing that the Board of Selectmen would negotiate a contract with money they don't have," Gallant said, adding that at the annual town meeting, a proposal initially called for about $38,000 for that budget line but that it was amended on the floor to about $21,000.
Finance Committee member Bill Stevens, however, said that was another mistake altogether and is separate from the $8,500 asked for at Tuesday's special town meeting. Stevens said the original number was from a prior year and should not have been proposed at all at the meeting.
"This is not a planned way to get around town meeting," Selectman Robert Barton said.
The contract has already been signed but it is only for one year, according to Prendergast, and the Selectmen will "correct it" next year.
Voters approved raising and appropriating the needed money because either way, the town would have to find a way to pay for it. A motion to fund the position out of reserve funds was defeated.
Voters also approved raising and appropriating $22,000 for a new police cruiser to replace one that was totaled earlier this year.
"We're getting $10,000 for the car that was totaled and with this, that'll be enough to purchase the new cruiser," Police Chief Mark Bashera said.
The Police Department will sell one of the vehicles — a Ford Expedition — and reduce the fleet by one, according to the Selectmen. Previously the Selectmen discussed fixing the Expedition and giving it to the Fire Department but in the meantime, the department fixed its own vehicle. The money from the sale of the Expedition will go back into the general fund.
Town meeting also approved raising $1,700 to join Wired West, an additional $2,500 for retirement benefits for new Town Administrator Paul Sieloff and $19,250 for shortfalls in insurance. New zoning bylaws were passed a second time after being approved at a previous special town meeting but then later rejected by the state attorney general because the meeting postings were correctly done.
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