By Lee J. Kahrs
PROCTOR — Voters in Proctor approved a ballot question Tuesday that will shift local government to a town manager format by a vote of 307-213.
Former Selectwoman Sue Feenick initiated the petition in order to get the question on the November ballot. She said she met many like-minded voters while gathering signatures. Tuesday night, Feenick was very pleased with the voting results.
“This is wonderful,” she said. “Voters have spoken. I hope that the select board will get a few residents along with a couple of select board members together to be on a committee for hiring a new town manager.”
Per state statue, a town manager is responsible for a number of key municipal duties, including supervision of all town employees, public buildings, the police and fire departments, parks and playgrounds, as well as assuming the duties of road commissioner and is responsible for all budgeting, accounting and tax collection.
For his part, Proctor Select Board Chari Bill Champine has expressed his displeasure with the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, saying he believes a town manager salary will cost the town more money.
Current Town Administrator Stan Wilbur makes $52,000 annually. The average salary for a town manager in Vermont is $79,729. However, the Proctor Road Commissioner job, currently at $45,000 salary, would be likely be absorbed into the town manager’s position.
Feenick said the time has come for Proctor to be more organized, particularly in the wake of a long-delayed and over-budget multi-million dollar water system upgrade.
For years, Proctor has used an administrative assistant or town administrator to run town business per the wishes of the select board. But the responsibilities of those positions are not covered by state statute the way the job of town manager is. That, coupled with the increasingly complex set of issues faced by towns, has led many municipalities to go with the town manager model. Currently, 61 Vermont towns operate under a town manager.
Feenick said she also hopes the select board will use the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to help in the search and hiring of the town’s first town manager.