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Free training for town officials

10 topics; first workshop set for Sept. 19

GREENFIELD — Firefighters in volunteer departments know that training is essential to doing their jobs well. But what about the newly elected selectman, who often learns on-the-job how to plan a town budget, handle personnel issues, how to conduct public meetings, when to hold an executive session or how to address residents’ complaints?

Those issues and more will be covered by the Franklin Regional Council of Government’s second “Selectboard Essentials Workshop Series,” which begins on Sept. 19.

This 2013-2014 series features 10 two-hour workshops between now and next spring, with guest presenters. It’s free to all Franklin County town officials, but they must register in advance.

The program was started last year, in response to requests from many area selectboard members, according to Phoebe Walker, FRCOG’s director of community services. Walker said each session drew between 15 to 55 town officials from all but one of Franklin County’s 26 towns.

“We heard regular requests from selectboard members for access to more training and from seeing the kinds of challenges (selectmen) were facing,” said Walker. “We did something like this once — eight to 10 years ago — but it’s basically a new idea.”

Walker said the money to pay for program expenses comes from Local Technical Assistance funds provided to FRCOG from the state’s Administration and Finance Office.

Last year’s programs included the “legal nuts and bolts” of selectmen’s work with discussion from two municipal attorneys; assessing liability and managing risk; liquor and licensing; and discussion about the state’s new medical marijuana law.

“The workshops are an excellent opportunity for town officials to learn more about their role in local government and to meet important resource people at the regional and state level,” she said.

Walker said other town administrators, finance committee members and other town officials also came to these workshops.

Recently, issues of civility have been raised within some town boards, as well as new requirements under the state Open Meeting Law. For instance, when does email from a selectman violate Open Meeting Law?

“I think the workshop on Open Meeting Law was very popular last year,” said Walker. She said 57 town officials attended that workshop.

New for the series is “The Basics of School Finance,” in which state officials will discuss what selectboard members should understand about school finance, how Chapter 70 state aid to education is calculated and how funding works for school choice, charter schools and vocational education.

Walker said last year’s attending town officials requested that topic.

Town officials may attend just one workshop or come to all. These workshops take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Community Room of the John W. Olver Transit Center on Olive Street.

Here’s the fall schedule:

∎ Sept 19: “Advanced open meeting law topics for Selectboards,” with attorney Donna MacNicol. This includes a detailed discussion of executive session provisions, public records requests and complaint procedures.

∎ Oct. 3: “How can your Selectboard get the most from FRCOG?” with Executive Director Linda Dunlavy. This includes what services the agency can provide town governments.

∎ Oct. 23: “The Basics of School Finance,” with DESE State Aid Coordinator Melissa King and School Finance Programs Administrator Roger Hatch.

∎ Nov. 21: “Personal Legal Guidance for Selectboards,” with John Dolan of Kopelman and Paige.

∎ Dec. 12: “Preparing for the Silver Wave: The Aging of Franklin County and Its Impacts.” Several presenters who work with the elderly will discuss what the changing demographic will mean for town services.

Other topics coming up in 2014 include: Financial skills for Selectboards (Feb. 19); transportation funding (March 20); contracting and procurement (April 24); and conflict of interest, with representatives from the State Ethics Commission.

To register, call (413) 774-3167, ext. 101 or email: admin@frcog.org

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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