Finance Committee Votes Select Board Budget without Energy & Sustainability Manager

February 17, 2022

The new energy and sustainability manager position built into the proposed fiscal 2023 Select Board budget emerged from the Finance Committee meeting Thursday in limbo.

The board voted 6-2 to segregate the $75,000 earmarked for that position, pending receipt of additional information. As part of the motion, the remainder of the $18.6 million budget was approved for Bedford’s 2022 Annual Town Meeting warrant.

No one spoke against the position. “This is too important not to get it right,” said member Ben Thomas. Karen Dunn acknowledged the widespread community support expressed for the position. ‘We care about the issue” and the delay doesn’t “dampen the enthusiasm.”

Initially, the committee voted 4-4 on a motion to approve the entire budget. A five-person majority is needed; the board has been short one member for several weeks since a resignation.

Member Ben Thomas enumerated three uncertainties that he said, if answered to his satisfaction, would solidify his support. He said he needs to see a written job description, an explanation of the new manager’s placement in the structure of town government, and potential energy and sustainability grants that are not on the town’s current radar.

“I still don’t know what this position actually entails,” Thomas commented. “I have no idea what the job description is. This disappoints me terribly.”

Thomas emphasized that the new position should be part of the Facilities Department since that’s the only one with the scope that covers all town departments and the schools.

Committee Chair Steve Carluccio asked if the two Select Board members present could clarify the chain of command. But the answer came from Bill Moonan, who with Ed Pierce voted against the Select Board budget earlier this month. “I do think it’s a good idea; I just don’t think it’s fully formed,” he said.

Member David Powell commented, “Our role is not necessarily to opine about where the position falls in the structure. I think that goes beyond the mission of the Finance Committee.” Thomas replied, “We’ve always had incredibly serious discussions about adding any personnel to the Select Board budget.”

The printed town meeting warrant closes on Tuesday, but the budget number presented to Annual Town Meeting is the one that is read on the floor, so the committee has time to digest the energy and sustainability issues. “My hope would be that we resolve it next week,” said Elizabeth McClung.

Committee member Steve Steele said he would also have voted for a budget with an additional $10,000 for Council on Aging program expansion. “I think it’s an underserved population,” he said, adding, “They are the single group that lost the most in the pandemic.”

During budget discussions with the Select Board, Town Manager Sarah Stanton said she did not include hundreds of thousands of dollars of requests so she could submit a budget adhering to the Finance Committee’s 2.5 percent increase guideline. The budget with the new position increases by 2.91 percent; without it, 2.5.

The committee also voted 7-0-1 to recommend approval of the proposed $45 million school budget.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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