Extra meeting points out how much time board memebers commit to
Jul 11, 2013 | 5055 views | 0 0 comments | 248 248 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The decision by the Halifax Selectboard to add regular Monday afternoon meetings to its schedule is one that spotlights just how much work is involved in what is essentially a volunteer position. (See story on page 3.) Running even a small town like Halifax is extremely complex. Boards are required to know municipal law, to manage budgets and staff, and to make decisions affecting the general public throughout their town. That’s quite a lot to ask of someone, and it ends up costing those who choose to serve a great deal of time and energy to accomplish their elected duties.

In pushing for the additional meetings, board member Edee Edwards points out the complexity of managing the town’s highway department and the difficulties faced by the board and department supervisor. She hopes that the additional time, dedicated simply to road issues, will help the three-member board get their arms around some of the more thorny issues.

We understand the need for additional time. To ask a three-member board to grasp the myriad issues faced by a town government is a big request indeed. Adding the time is one way to take on some of those issues.

Of course the extra meetings may not be a panacea for the board. There will still be problems, not the least of which could be board-member burnout from the additional work. While board members in area towns receive a small stipend or hourly fee, the pittance hardly makes up for the volume of work most put into the position. Yet another could be the lack of public access, due to the meetings’ time of 1 pm on Mondays. For those who work, it’s a difficult time and day to find a way to attend, and road issues often bring out the public to public meetings.

There may be other options Halifax could explore, should the extra meetings prove too burdensome. One would be to expand the selectboard to five members. This has been discussed in the past, but never acted on. It is one way to spread out some of the workload. Another option might be to hire a part-time administrator for the town, similar to Readsboro and other small communities around the area. Although it may cost the taxpayers some additional expense, in the long run it could save money by having a professional who could manage departments, set budgets, and seek out grant opportunities for the town. There are probably other viable options that could serve the town as well.

Whatever the long-term solution for Halifax becomes, this once again points out just how much work goes into running a small town. We would all be wise to respect the efforts of the members of local select, school, and other boards and the time they give, regardless of how one feels about a particular issue.
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