AYER -- Town Meeting has traditionally been presented with selectmen-negotiated contracts entered into with the town's unions for ultimate approval. That will not happen with the contracts negotiated this spring with the DPW, police superior officers, clerical workers, firefighters and police dispatchers unions.
Town Accountant Lisa Gabree said she feared what could happen if voters disapproved of the contracts, as her office is already paying on the basis of the memoranda of agreement entered into with each union. Instead, selectmen agreed on Oct. 2 to issue a report to Town Meeting on the contracts entered into with each union.
Also, voters will not have a direct say in approving the $550,000 "buy in" sum for the town's membership in the Nashoba Valley Vocational School District. At annual Town Meeting in May, Ayer voters approved joining the regional district effective July 1. Voters were advised a follow-up vote would be needed this fall to cover the buy-in expense for the district's capital account.
Instead, last week selectmen voted (3-2) to approve Selectman Gary Luca's motion to pay the sum due from the town's Urban Development Action Grant account. Luca proposed the money will be paid back over the course of five years from savings in transportation costs and tuition costs.
Luca estimated there would be $77,000 saved annually on transportation costs, and that total annual savings would top $100,000.
Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said he'd been advised that the UDAG money could be used for the buy-in. Selectman Pauline Conley asked for the opinion to be reduced to writing by town counsel.
"To say we will reimburse UDAG is no guarantee we will reimburse UDAG," said Conley. "I'm not in favor of taking this decision away from the voters."
"This is definitely outside the purpose of UDAG," said Selectman Frank Maxant, who also opposed the move. "UDAG is for towns with lower demographics to grow economics."
Maxant contended the buy-in is an ineligible use for UDAG funds. However, Maxant said he'd have been willing to use UDAG funds if voters had the opportunity to vote this fall and then rejected the buy-in.
Chair Jim Fay said "UDAG is fine for me," and added that voters elected the selectmen to make executive decisions. "I'm going to make them."
"We're elected for a reason," echoed Luca. Selectman Christopher Hillman did not participate in the discussion.