SHIRLEY -- With a list of agreed-upon goals and objectives in hand, new Town Administrator Patrice Garvin updated the selectmen Monday night on work in progress.

One top goal was to come up with a "unified" town budget to bring to selectmen and the Finance Committee, which will meet in joint session in February to review it. To that end, Garvin said she continues to meet with committees and department heads and is confident she can meet that deadline.

Good News

Thanking the finance team for a job well done, Garvin said the Department of Revenue has officially approved the town's 2014 tax rate of $16.75 per thousand, which the assessors presented as an estimate during the recent tax classification hearing.

With money appropriated at Town Meeting to upgrade municipal IT services and replace the town's outmoded servers, contracts for both have gone out to bid, Garvin said.

Garvin said she's been attending public safety meetings and there are now plans in place for the town's official response to inclement weather events, with a policy in the works for the board's later review.

Working to improve "efficiencies" in town government, Garvin said one key step in that direction is to have all personnel issues, including benefits, channeled through her office, a policy move the board approved during a previous session.

In addition, she said, the Personnel Board is set to bring its latest Policy Manual and Wage Scale and Salary Classification document for the board to review at its next meeting.

Garvin also said a conservation sgent appointment is pending. She's been interviewing candidates for the 19-hour per week position that was recently vacated. She expects to bring a finalist that the Conservation Commission has approved to the board by Dec. 10.

MART parking

Train station parking has long been a sore spot with town officials, with the Montachusett Area Regional Transit authority staunchly sticking by an existing arrangement in which the town is paid to plow 25 spaces, even though that's clearly not enough.

DPW foreman Paul Farrar, however, has been unofficially expanding the lot and plowing more than 25 spaces because that number comes up woefully short, especially while the Leominster train station parking lot was closed for renovation.

Last winter, for example, Farrar told the board he'd counted between 130 and 150 commuter vehicles parked at and around the train station, spilling out of the lot into areas reserved for nearby businesses and surrounding streets.

Subsequently, Farrar on his own initiative plowed a larger area, clearing 130 to 150 spaces while MART continues to pay the town only for 25.

That's not likely to change, Garvin said, and now that the other train station is open again, railway commuters may still flock to Shirley, where parking is free, versus paying to park in the Leominster lot.

She agreed with the selectmen that the arrangement needs adjusting, but MART won't budge, she said.

But there may be another way to fix the situation if Shirley is allowed to charge parking fees to nonresident commuters. She's continuing to talk to the agency about it and will report back to the board, Garvin said, hopefully, by next month.

Selectman Kendra Dumont said that while it's clear something must be done, she'd prefer that the board hold off taking action until talks with MART are complete.

"It's nice of Paul to clear the added spaces, but why should we have to (provide) free parking for out-of-town commuters?" she asked.

"Can we charge or not?" asked Selectman Robert Prescott.

Garvin said there's no word on that yet, but outgoing MART director Mohammed Khan seemed amenable to the idea.

Selectman David Swain said if that's the case, he wants it in writing.