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Belmont considers strengthening town administrator position

Posted by Evan Allen  September 26, 2012 02:43 PM

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Belmont’s Government Structure Review Committee recommended Monday night that the town strengthen the position of the town administrator, a move that would shift some power away from the Board of Selectmen.

The Committee, headed by Paul Solomon, also suggested reorganizing the Municipal Light Board, which is currently made up of the members of the Board of Selectmen, and making it instead an independent board that would answer to the selectmen.

The biggest proposed change – a stronger administrator – has been a topic in town for a long time. In January of this year, the Board of Selectmen voted to redefine the town administrator as the “chief administrative officer for the town,” a move that gave the position more gravitas but not more actual power.

The Committee goes further, offering a new job description for the administrator that includes power to appoint, remove and discipline department heads, and appoint, remove and discipline the directors of all elected and appointed boards, with the exception of the School Committee, the Municipal Light Department and the Housing Authority.

The administrator would also have the authority to centralize budget and personnel functions of all elected and appointed boards; centralize lines of authority and control over buildings, parks, fields, grounds, information technology, purchasing and health insurance; and ensure close alignment of collective bargaining and labor relations of all municipal employee unions.

Strengthening the administrator position would allow the Board of Selectmen to focus on setting policy. Currently, the board deals with a variety of day-to-day issues like one-day liquor licenses and street signs. Officials have said that it is a cumbersome way to run the government.

“I think the town administrator should be the chief executive officer, the board should be the executive officers,” said selectmen chairman Mark Paolillo on Monday night.

Board of Health chairman David Alper requested that the Committee meet with the boards that would be affected by the change before it formally presents final findings.

The Committee hopes to present its final recommendations by the end of October so that the Board of Selectmen could bring proposed changes before a Special Town Meeting, if the selectmen decide to call one. However, it will be tight, said officials on Monday night, to try to meet with all the boards in such a short period of time.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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