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Brayton to serve as Westport tax collector and treasurer

Also, a salute to Marlene, hiring freeze debated

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 5/21/20

 

Also, a salute to Marlene, hiring freeze debated

 

The Board of Selectmen has chosen Susan Brayton, collector of taxes, to assume the additional position of town treasurer …

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Brayton to serve as Westport tax collector and treasurer

Also, a salute to Marlene, hiring freeze debated

Posted

The Westport Board of Selectmen has chosen Susan Brayton, collector of taxes, to assume the additional position of town treasurer effective June 24, the day after the town elections.

She will replace current Town Treasurer Brad Brightman who will step down as of the town election.

It’s all part of what board Chairwoman Shana Shufelt called “a series of complicated things.”

Voters had already decided that they wanted to change from an elected to an appointed treasurer — that transition has now happened with the appointment of Ms. Brayton.

But there is also support for combining the jobs of treasurer and collector into a single appointed job as many other towns have done. That will require actions at both town meetings and an election.

Town Administrator Tim King said he discussed with Ms Brayton the possibility of taking on the added job of treasurer through April 20, 2021, and she agreed. Not yet determined are contract terms, including pay.

“I think she is very capable,” he said. She already knows much of what is involved in the treasurer job and should be able to learn the rest.

Selectman Richard Brewer agreed — “I think she is well-qualified for this position.” 

The appointment means that a separate search for someone to take on the treasurer job will cease. 

Mr. King said the timing is right for the move; The current treasurer will be leaving shortly, and the town is anticipating severe budget restraints in the coming year so combining two jobs into one will save money.

Hiring freeze

Westport won’t declare a hiring freeze for now (one may already be in place), but selectmen want all department heads to know that the budget situation for fiscal year 2021 is dire.

“People should hear loud and clear that that we are talking about cuts in positions, we are not talking about hiring people,” Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Shana Shufelt said. “We are planning for a really bad scenario.

Town Administrator Tim King had recommended a hiring freeze declaration.

He warned that next year’s budget is going to be “very right … In fact the budget we adopt for regular services will be less than we are spending for 2020.

Any request for filling a vacancy in an existing position, or even to post the job in search of applications, should require action by selectmen, he said.

But selectman Richard Brewer said he didn’t think declaring a hiring freeze would give selectmen any more authority than they already have.  And if the board did decide that filling a position was vital, it would need to undo the hiring freeze.

“I think we are hamstringing ourselves,” he said.

“To my knowledge, we haven’t lifted the one we have,” selectman Steven Ouellette said. There are positions we haven’t filled.

Ms. Shufelt said she agreed with Mr. Brewer and added that later in that evening’s agenda there is a request to fill a part-time dispatcher position “which looks like it is needed” — a dispatcher was indeed hired later in the meeting.

“We say there is a hiring freeze and then, in the same breath, say we are hiring a part-time dispatcher for a very good reason.” We are in hard times she said, and don’t need a hiring freeze to do what needs to be done.

Thanks Marlene

Long-time Town Clerk Marlene Samson received a State House sendoff at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting with tributes from both state Senator Michael Rodrigues and state Representative Paul Schmid.

This being a remote meeting, it didn’t go off without a few hitches.

Sen. Rodrigues began with a greeting to Ms. Samson — both, like everyone else, linked in via Google Meet.

After a pause, he asked, “Marlene, are you there?” No answer.

“She’s muted,” Sen. Rodrigues said. “That’s a first.”

Once connections were enabled, the senator said this would be the first remote senate citation he has ever delivered.

“It’s not going to be the same walking in to Town Hall and not seeing you. You were always my first stop,” he said, adding that Ms. Samson has been like family.

He wished the town clerk a most happy retirement filled with travel to lovely places.

Complications resumed when it was Rep. Schmid’s turn. Nothing he tried managed to un-mute his link, so, after some delay, he managed to call selectmen clerk Lucy Tabit and deliver best wishes from the House of Representatives through her connection.

“We will definitely not see the likes of you again soon,” Rep. Schmid said. “You are a wonderful example of commitment to Westport.”

Ms. Samson thanked all for the kindness they have shown her over the years, adding that travel, including perhaps to Portugal, is part of her plan for retirement.

Salute to Class of 2020

Selectmen voted unanimous approval to allow a banner to be hung across Main Road at the high school to salute to the members of the high school class of 2020.

Also, signs will be placed on lawns around town featuring the class members individually.

WHS Principal Mitchel Aho told selectmen that this is one way to honor seniors “since they are losing out on recognition for all of their hard work.”

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