WATERTOWN — The Town Council, meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, January 6, announced reappointments to boards and commissions, arranged meeting times for multiple town meetings and set the temporary wage adjustment for the acting building official.
The meeting began with public participation. Resident John Sullivan told the council “having a competent, professional building official is an important part of the town.”
He believes that having an understaffed building department affects the building official position. Current building official Joel Skilton’s workload has increased due to the retirement of the head building official. He urged the council to consider fair market compensation and assistance for Mr. Skilton.
Resident Katherine Camara asked the council about the ethics ordinance section, 3-8DL. “It states, when do the town employees, elected officials and appointed commission members sign the statement that they have read, understand and agree to abide by the conflict of interest provisions,” she asked.
She asked when the Town Council members signed that agreement. Vice Chairman Kathleen Raimo said that she was not sure, but the council would make a note and get back to her with an answer.
Ms. Camara also referred to Chairman Thomas Winn’s comment in the newspaper about the Charter Revision Commission following a mayoral-form of government. Ms. Camara suggested that the council attend some of the Charter Revision Commission meetings referring this idea.
She asked about Section 311 of the Town Charter that was filed at the last council meeting and hoped it would be addressed later in the meeting.
According to Ms. Raimo, Mr. Winn will address this concern at a later meeting. Mr. Winn was not present at the meeting, but Ms. Raimo said that everything he had for his chairman’s report was placed on file.
Finance Director and Assistant Town Manager Susan Zappone is the acting town manager.
“They are immediately looking for a replacement, so I am willing to fill in for the time being,” she said.
Ms. Zappone gave the town manager’s report. She stated that the town audit for fiscal year 2019 has been completed and can be found on the town website.
The fund balance is currently $6,798,000, which is an increase of $2,714,000 from fiscal year 2018. She explained that this puts the town within the fund balance policy which is to maintain the general fund at between seven and 12 percent of the fiscal year’s operating revenue.
Ms. Zappone said that she started the budget preparation for 2021 and will sit with each department head to individually go through requests.
She said that town employees will complete a walk-through in the new town hall beginning this week. The finance department and the town manager’s office will be walking through first.
The council approved eight reappointments and one appointment to several commissions, including the Board of Tax Assessment Appeals, the Building Code Board of Appeals, the Town Constable, the Economic Development Commission, the Watertown Historic District Commission, the Watertown Housing Authority and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The single appointment was to the Torrington Area Health District Board to replace a member who joined another commission.
The commission set the temporary wage adjustment for acting building official Mr. Skilton at $1,448.05 weekly, retroactive to his appointment, for the duration as acting building official.
The council scheduled two special town meetings for Tuesday, January 21 at Watertown High School. The first meeting is so that the council can authorize an appropriation of $55,200 from the general fund for the purchase of a senior minibus. The funds will be reimbursed through a state Department of Transportation 5310 grant.
The second meeting will authorize an appropriation of $50,000 for the Board of Education’s share of the school resource officer. The funds have been deposited into the general fund from the Board of Education.
The council approved allocating additional funds in the amount of $19,380 for the Clerk of the Works for the Town Hall Renovation Project. Ms. Raimo said that the funds were to last for three months until March.
The last action items were to approve resolutions to authorize the transfer of funds between line items, tax refunds and an appropriation in the amount of $1,263.95 for tax refunds.
The meeting ended with public participation. Resident Alan Mickel asked how someone might get appointed as the historian in town or if the town is looking for a new historian. According to Mr. Mickel, both people in the position have resigned.
Council members were unsure but told him that they would get an answer.
Ms. Camara asked of the council that by the next meeting, the council could have an understanding on how public participation works, because according to Ms. Camara, “it changes all the time. Sometimes you can ask a question, sometimes you cannot ask a question.”
Ms. Camara asked the council to explain to the public how to address questions to the town council.