AYER -- Selectmen met Tuesday to appoint a new member to the Zoning Board of Appeals and discuss the town's annual audit of financial statements.
Selectmen appointed Christa Maxant as the new ZBA member. She said she had been interested in getting involved in town government for awhile and decided to ask for an appointment after a position became vacant. The ZBA now has its full board of five members, but is still looking for two alternate members.
Auditor James Giusti from Giusti, Hingston and Company discussed the town's management letter with selectmen. He was accompanied by town accountant Lisa Gabree and town Treasurer Stephanie Gintner. Town Clerk and Tax Collector Susan Copeland could not attend due to personal issues.
One issue discussed was the town's failure to pay certain retirees health-insurance premiums to other municipalities under state law Chapter 32 B, Section A and 1/2. The law states one municipality can bill other municipalities for a percentage of a retiree's health-insurance premium if the person has worked in their town. The law has been active since January, 2011.
Currently, Gintner has not paid any premiums to other municipalities; she is the only person authorized to sign the payments. She stated she had various questions about the amount she has to pay and where the figures came from, and therefore has not proceeded with paying those bills.
"The law says you have to pay it, but it doesn't say anything more," said Giusti.
She also pointed out that many of the retirees were in the school system, making it a confusing matter since now the school system is regionalized.
"I don't see it that way," said Gabree. "Those people retired from the town of Ayer, not the school district, so they are our retirees."
Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said he has sought town counsel's opinion on the matter but has not received an opinion yet.
"The law does charge the treasurer with handling the issue," said Pontbriand. "The law has been in place for four years and the town of Ayer has no billing system in place to pay other towns or receive payment from other towns."
He also pointed out that last week, a town was seeking payments from 2013 and threatened to seek other action if they were not paid. He said there has been no formal request from the treasurer for town counsel's opinion.
"It befuddles myself, and I don't think I'm alone here, why, when we talk about implementing good policy, the treasurer wouldn't have a good system in place to bill other towns," said Pontbriand.
"I don't want the town to end up in court," said Chairman Christopher Hillman.
"What I'm hoping for is that town counsel (will) consider these bills from the school and give an opinion as to whether the town should pay them or the school should pay them," said Gintner.
She said she feels some of the calculations are not right the way the law is written and that is why she wanted to speak to town counsel.
Hillman suggested Gintner reach out to town counsel with specific questions she may have and report to selectmen after she has received it.
Another matter discussed was a possible Ayer fall festival. David Maher, from the office of community and economic development, proposed a street festival to selectmen.
Downtown businesses Lucia's, Markohs, Carlin's and Billiards said they would like to support the event, which is scheduled to take place Oct. 3 and 4.
"I think it will be fun," said Selectman Jannice Livingston.
The event, Ayer Harvest Festival, would include food and alcohol from local business as well as live entertainment. Maher said he hoped it would become a seasonal event in the future.
Selectmen approved the event contingent upon the approval of the liquor license from the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission and any recommendation made by Ayer police.