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Montague to vote on trimming Finance Committee

MONTAGUE — A special town meeting set for the end of the month will revisit an effort dropped at the last such meeting in September to reduce the number of seats on the Finance Committee.

On paper, the committee counts nine members.

Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio said only five of those seats are currently filled and the body often has difficulty reaching a quorum, with five the minimum number required to hold a meeting and vote.

The town is entering the annual budget season, with a final budget to be voted at the annual May meeting.

The Finance Committee is charged with investigating the operating budgets of the various town departments and recommending to members at the annual town meeting the sums to be appropriated for each.

John Hanold, chairman of the Finance Committee, said the committee is recently back up to five members after dropping below the minimum for a time.

“One of our members resigned very abruptly so we had a stretch of probably several months when we could not officially do business,” Hanold said.

Now, the committee has the bare minimum required to vote, but with no allowance for when members are sick, traveling or otherwise unable to attend, Hanold said.

The article calls for a vote to change the town bylaws to replace the nine seats with “not less than 3 but not more than 7.”

This language would make the quorum for the committee one half the current membership plus one, or from two to four members depending on the number of appointees.

Hanold said during his six or seven years on the committee it has not numbered above five or six, and had until last year operated on the belief that a quorum was a majority of the members then appointed.

A similar motion was voted down at the September special town meeting after a town meeting member raised the question of whether a change to the bylaws could be made at a special rather the annual meeting.

Town Clerk Debra Bourbeau said the following day the Attorney General’s Office confirmed the meeting could legally have decided the issue.

Much of the rest of the business to be handled at this month’s special town meeting is financial, and some decisions may be rendered unnecessary by the time the meeting convenes.

The Finance Committee is able to authorize certain financial transactions, but was unable to do so while it lacked a quorum.

Hanold said now that the committee is back up to five members it may authorize the smaller two of three reserve fund transfers requested by town departments, $1,400 for the town accountant’s budget and $5,500 for the Board of Assessors.

Hanold said three other items, increases to the veterans’ benefits and police and dispatch budget, are likely to continue in future years, the first result of the return of veterans from the wars in the Middle East and the police and dispatch increases reflecting unfunded state training mandates.

Among the 19 items on the agenda:

■ $17,200 to pay off the amount owed on a John Deere loader.

■ $100,000 into the town stabilization or savings fund.

■ $24,500 to increase the police budget for the current fiscal year.

■ $30,000 to increase the veterans’ benefits budget for the current fiscal year.

■ $17,500 to increase the town legal budget for the current fiscal year.

■ $11,000 to increase the emergency dispatch budget for the current fiscal year.

The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the Turners Falls High School.

Montague’s town meetings are representative. All may attend, residents registered to vote may speak but only elected town meeting members may vote.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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