The Rochester Board of Selectmen and Board of Assessors met to discuss a variety of issues that had been plaguing them for months. The discussion was held at the Selectmen’s regular meeting on Monday, September 17 in Rochester Town Hall.
“Our objective is to clear the air and get some good, constructive ideas going,” said Assessor John Mello.
The first order of business for the Boards to discuss was the tax abatement and interest issue between the town of Rochester and Covanta SEMASS. According to the Selectmen, Tax Collector Beatrice Renauld was never notified that the tax interest for Covanta SEMASS was waived; therefore, the town issued the company money that it didn’t have to. Renauld issued the money back in June and the money has yet to be refunded. According to the Selectmen, it was the Assessors’ responsibility to tell Renauld the interest was waived.
“The collector should have been notified,” said Mello.
The two boards agreed to work together to try and get the refunded money back from SEMASS.
The biggest source of controversy in the meeting was the discussion of the contract, evaluation and working hours of one town employee position: the Massachusetts Appraisal Tehcnical Advisor. According to the Assessors, they never received the original copy of the new contract for the position, which had been renewed when the initial contract of three years expired. The selectmen, however, contested that all contracts for town employees are kept in the same place for the sake of organization.
“You do not have authority over this position,” said Mello.
The discussion about contracts then transitioned into a talk about the evaluation of the town employee. The assessors were displeased that Town Administrator Richard LaCamera had access to the confidential information when they believed that the only people who should be able to access the information are the employee and his direct supervisors.
“The risk of a breach of confidentiality is a concern of mine,” said Mello.
Town Counselor Blair Bailey answered the Assessors’ concerns by saying that LaCamera only opens the evaluations to make sure they are completed with all the necessary information and that he does not read them. Furthermore, Selectman Naida Parker ensured the Assessors that the evaluations were in safe hands.
“The confidentiality of those documents has always been paramount in this town,” she said.
Mello deemed the tone LaCamera addressed the Assessors in as unprofessional and condescending. LaCamera responded by saying that there had been three months of emails from the Assessors that were unprofessional.
In other news, Assessor Jana Cavanaugh updated the Board on the status of the Fiscal Year 2013 Tax Rate. Cavanaugh said a final review of the rate will be conducted on Wednesday, and when an agreement has been reached, it will be submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. From there, the Department of Revenue will respond to the town with an approval or denial of the rate.
“We are right where we think we should be,” said Cavanugh.
In other business, LaCamera informed the Board that he has received a timeline for the project for improvements to Rochester Town Hall. He said he asked the Financial Committee to join the next Selectmen’s meeting in order to further discuss the project. Also, the Board suggested that December 3 be the date for the Annual Tree Lighting. The date, however, has not been completely solidified.
The Rochester Board of Selectmen will meet again on Monday, September 24 at 7:00 pm in Rochester Town Hall.
By Katy Fitzpatrick