The Marion Board of Assessors joined the Select Board at the latter’s public meeting on Tuesday night to conduct joint interviews of three candidates for the opening on the Board of Assessors created by the loss of longtime member Catherine Gibbs.
Gibbs passed away on September 28 at age 92.
Peter Winters, Michael Pierre and Barry Gaffey each sat individually before the boards and fielded questions from Select Board members Toby Burr, Norm Hills and Randy Parker and Assessors Pat DeCosta and George “TJ” Walker.
Voting on an appointment to the Board of Assessors will take place at the next regular meeting of the Select Board in joint session with the Assessors on Wednesday, December 7, at 5:00 pm at the Cushing Community Center. The meeting is being held there at that time as a prelude to the town’s annual holiday party.
Appointment to the Board of Assessors will continue until the 2023 Town Election in May.
“I’m always looking for a new challenge,” Winters told the boards in the second of the three interviews.
Having served as chairman of both the Finance Committee, where he is still an elected member, and the Planning Board (serving as chair five of his seven years), Winters served on the bid-selection committee for Little Neck Village. He drafted decisions for the Planning Board and drafted the agenda for the Finance Committee on a 48-hour deadline.
“I know the executive-sessions’ intentions. I’ve conducted a myriad of real-estate closings,” he added, referencing municipal-law research, public hearings and various types of tax law. Winters is a 30-year attorney with an interest in finance and law. He holds a master’s degree in Tax Law and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.
He told the boards he is familiar with various methods of property valuation, court involvement, including bankruptcy court, along with the state Open Meeting Law and Public Workers Law. He also served on the Town Party committee. As moderator of his church, Winters is familiar with “Robert’s Rules of Order.”
Winters did not hesitate to launch into thorough answers to all the questions sent his way, starting with the responsibilities of the Board of Assessors, giving examples of the kind of work its members do at particular times on the calendar.
“This is the main source of money for the town,” he said, estimating that between 60% and 70% of Marion’s revenue goes through the collection of the Assessors. “It’s important that we raise money for the town, but it’s important that we’re fair …”
Winters’ only attendance limitations would be on Tuesday nights due to his law practice.
Walker asked him how he would handle making unpopular decisions. Winters appealed to his experience on the Planning Board and the criteria necessary to qualify for a special permit. “Some people didn’t like that,” he said. “With regard to confidentiality, I take that and private communications very seriously as well. I think it’s important that people trust their public servants. … It’s also important that citizens have trust in their government.”
Pierre interviewed first. A 21-year Marion resident and property owner, he also has a background that encompasses finance.
“I’m here voluntarily as a demonstration to be engaged in the community, answering the call of civic obligation …,” he said, adding that he is in a “place in my business and personal life where I feel like I have the time.”
Pierre served on Marion’s Affordable Housing Trust. “It opened my eyes to various other areas and issues that affect the town and how it’s managed,” he said, calling it a “very positive experience” that left him with a “positive opinion about how the town has been managed in the 21 years I’ve been here.”
Pierre worked in investment management for 20 years in Boston, running his own business and working for a couple of asset-management firms. He told the boards he is “reasonably fluent in financial analysis and affairs” and can read a balance sheet.
He candidly admitted he did not know the inner workings of the Board of Assessors but understands “the board is aiming to accomplish two things: equity across the tax base and supporting and enhancing the financial strength of the town.”
Pierre also admitted to “some competing obligations” with attendance requirements.
“I’ve made a lot of unpopular decisions in my adult life,” Pierre told Walker. “I understand the way the local municipality needs to accomplish in terms of budgeting and sources and uses of funds. I approach all kinds of controversial and contentious topics with a fair and balanced mindset. I think my views are centrist and moderate in nature. I don’t carry any extreme views on taxation … Do I have any personal or business conflicts that would interfere? I don’t think I do.”
DeCosta asked about Pierre’s ability to maintain confidentiality.
“That’s something that I have a sincere appreciation and respect for. Those same principles are in business management,” he said, referencing regulations and policies that are in place. “I think I’m well drilled in that aspect.”
Pierre asked no questions of the boards. “If this doesn’t work out, I’ll raise my hand for something else down the road,” he said.
Gaffey discussed the work that the late Catherine Gibbs did for so many years and noted that he had run against her and lost.
“I’ve always felt that the job of the assessors is to bring money that the town needs to support (its many programs and tasks),” he said, noting “many facets” including personal exemptions, personal property, forestry and farming. “There’s a lot more complexity than people realize. What I found is there is a lot in terms of commercial properties.”
In response to a question from Hills, Gaffey discussed the depth of town records. “I’m really impressed. It’s a very detailed job, huge in the sense that right down to easements and rights of way, what I’ve seen, looking at it, I am impressed. … It all affects property values,” he said.
Burr told each candidate that the Board of Assessors meets two to four times per month at 3:00 pm on Wednesdays, but if a taxpayer cannot attend a regular session, the board will hold a special meeting at night. Gaffey indicated that attendance would be no problem.
He also told the boards he would be able to take the eight-hour, state Department of Revenue course within one year of appointment.
Asked by Walker about making unpopular decisions that involve people’s personal finance and the accompanying pressures, Gaffey said, “The onus is on the property owner to make their case.” In being fair and just and looking at the comparisons, Gaffey said there should not be any politics involved in the process. “We don’t really do anything other than make the money for the budget from the real-estate property.”
Asked by DeCosta to comment on confidentiality, Gaffey talked about the vast personal information that the town receives. He talked about veterans who are disabled and the responsibility of the town to treat their personal information with great care.
After considering what Hills called “lots of qualified people,” the Select Board voted to appoint a five-person search committee for a new town administrator. Parker will represent the Select Board on the committee, while Building Commissioner Bob Grillo will represent town staff, and three residents were appointed: Cynthia Callow, Jay Pateakos and Mike Sudofsky.
The committee’s first meeting with consultant Bernie Lynch of Community Paradigm Associates will be held in the first week of December.
The Select Board voted to appoint Susan Miller to the Affordable Housing Trust and Joe Rocha to the Fireworks Committee. They also voted to authorize Executive Assistant Donna Hemphill to act on the town’s behalf in matters pertaining to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA.)
The board approved Water/Sewer commitments (final readings on November 8) of $9.879.97, $168.70 and $767.47.
After a public hearing with Verizon/Eversource, a utility pole at a new location was approved that will service private property at 471 Point Road.
The 6:15 pm Public Hearing with the Board of Assessors for the purpose of determining the tax classification of property was only opened to be continued to a special Select Board meeting on Tuesday, November 22, at 6:00 pm at the Police Station.
Judy Mooney, the interim town administrator, announced a holiday schedule for town offices that will see the Town House, Cushing Community Center and Department of Public Works close at 12:00 pm on two Fridays, December 23 and December 30, the Transfer Station close on at 12:00 pm on two Fridays, December 24 and December 31, while the DPW ends its workday on Friday, December 23, at 11:00 am. All town offices will be closed on Mondays, December 26, and January 2, 2023.
No vote was needed, as the aforementioned closures are written into town employees’ contracts.
The holidays will pose no changes to the schedule for collections by Waste Management. The schedule will be posted at marionma.gov.
License holders, who have not yet turned in their applications, have until Wednesday, November 30th, to get them in: Contact Donna Hemphill with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next regular meeting of the Marion Select Board is scheduled for Wednesday, December 7, at 5:00 pm at the Cushing Community Center, after which the Town of Marion will hold its annual holiday party.
Marion Select Board/Board of Assessors
By Mick Colageo