Amherst assesses goals midway through fiscal year
AMHERST — Locating new sources of revenue, enhancing the town’s relationship with the University of Massachusetts and protecting neighborhoods from the impacts of student rentals are among areas Town Manager John Musante has focused in the first half of the current budget year.
In a mid-year progress report presented to the Select Board Monday, Musante outlined the ways he and town staff have been working toward each of the 11 performance goals it established for him.
Musante highlighted the $675,500 in revenue the town has recently received. This includes a $302,000 grant, resulting from the town’s designation as a Green Community, that will be used to purchase and install light-emitting diode streetlights.
“You can expect to see LED lights installed all throughout town in the first quarter of 2013,” Musante said.
When these streetlights are in place, the town could save $40,000 a year, Musante said.
A recent inter-municipal agreement with Pelham to provide assessing services will create new revenue of $20,000 that will come in the form of a payment from Pelham.
A $353,500 grant from the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will be used to protect a 20-acre open space parcel in South Amherst.
Musante has also worked toward municipal savings, including $100,000 a year in premium costs in health care for retirees. Other cost cutting will come from an expanded online bill pay system for residents and paperless billing for water and sewer customers.
In his memo, Musante wrote the achievements are “largely the result of the tremendous skill, dedication and work ethic each and every town employee brings to their everyday work.”
Musante said the town’s relationship with UMass is growing stronger through the ongoing Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods initiative, renewed joint police patrols and conversations about extending the Strategic Partnership Agreement that provides a payment to the town for the services it provides to the university.
Included in this work with the university is pursuing ways to reduce demand for ambulance service at the university.
Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods is aimed at improving the quality of rental stock, and a working group has begun meeting to develop a rental permitting system to be voted at next spring’s annual Town Meeting.
Musante said an effort to assess human resources needs and capabilities is taking place.
Human Resources Director Deborah Radway recently completed an audit in which she met with department heads for 90 minutes to two hours, as well as employees, assessing morale and whether they have any issues with the personnel procedures manual and performance reviews.
Radway said Amherst has a motivated and forward-thinking staff with settled contracts and competitive wages and benefits. The challenges, she said, include employees’ desire for more communication from her office and a lack of coordinated professional development in some departments.
Musante said he will have a stand-alone report about short- and long-term needs for town staffing and is still working on a municipal buildings report with facilities supervisor Ronald Bohonowicz.
Select Board member Aaron Hayden said Musante has done a good job keeping the board informed about all these topics.
“There’s nothing here that’s a surprise,” Hayden said.