Feb. 28 Select Board meeting: Search for permanent Town manager continues

Ella Marx

Filing papers for the 2022 election must be returned to Town Hall by March 22. (Ella Marx/The Williams Record)

The Williamstown Select Board is an elected committee of five Williamstown residents, each of whom has a three-year term. The board oversees the executive functions of the Town government and appoints the Town manager. It also fulfills various statutory duties in accordance with the Town charter.

At Monday’s meeting, Select Board member Hugh Daley announced that the search committee for a permanent Town manager has finished accepting applications. The Town is currently engaged in its second search for a permanent Town manager over the past year. Consultants from the firm GovHR — which is the same consulting firm the Town used during its first search for a permanent Town manager — will conduct background research on applicants for the position and assemble a portfolio of candidates for the search committee to select for interviews, Daley said.

The Town has been searching for a permanent Town manager since former Town manager Jason Hoch ’95 resigned in February 2021 following complaints from Town residents that he did not adequately investigate allegations of racial harassment and sexual assault in the Williamstown Police Department (WPD). WPD Sergeant Scott McGowan brought forth the allegations in a federal lawsuit filed in August 2020.

In 2021, the Select Board commenced its initial search to hire a permanent Town manager but decided to hire neither of the two finalists in October, citing that one candidate would be proficient in Town administration and the other would be better at advancing the Town’s goal of promoting diversity and inclusion. Ultimately, the board aspired to hire one candidate who would be skilled in both spheres.

After the search committee interviews candidates for the permanent Town manager role, the Select Board will conduct public interviews with finalists for the position before it decides to hire a candidate for the job, according to Daley. “The goal [for the search committee] is to deliver candidates to the Select Board at the latest … by early May,” he said.

Select Board approves Planning Board hearing on proposed amendments to zoning bylaws

The Select Board granted authorization for the Planning Board to host a public hearing on proposed amendments to the Williamstown Zoning By-laws that may be brought to the annual Town Meeting, which will be held at Williamstown Elementary School on May 17, according to the Town’s calendar.

On behalf of the Williamstown Planning Board, Chris Winters presented the proposed bylaw amendments to the Select Board, noting that the Planning Board is considering bringing nine potential amendments to zoning regulations as warrant articles at Town Meeting. Winters told the Select Board that the purpose of these proposed changes is to make Williamstown a more accessible place to live. “[The Planning Board was] looking at the zoning and saying what aspects of this zoning might be less inclusive than they should have been over the last 80 years of zoning history,” Winters said. Changing those laws, he explained, can open up housing opportunities for people who may have been unable to live in the Town under more restrictive zoning laws.

The proposed articles include amendments to the Town’s zoning bylaws that would remove barriers to constructing duplexes and small-scale multi-unit homes and reduce minimum lot dimensions required in the Town’s General Residence District and Rural Resident 2 District.

Williamstown Cares project leader delivers status update

Abby Reifsnyder, a social worker who is conducting research for the Williamstown Cares Community Safety and Wellbeing Assessment — a study designed to determine residents’ needs in the Town through interviews with members of the local community and the WPD — provided the Select Board with an update on the project’s status.

According to Reifsnyder, 200 Town residents have elected to participate in the survey, and the project’s researchers have already interviewed about 150 of them as well as members of the WPD. However, Reifsnyder told the Select Board that the researchers are having only “limited success” in their outreach efforts to solicit participation from residents of a diverse set of socioeconomic statuses.

Reifsnyder said that researchers expect to finalize a report analyzing the project’s results by the end of the summer. “The final product will be a report that … will have in it recommendations based on what people in Town have said they need and want,” she said.

The Select Board also discussed the following:

Filing papers for the Town’s 2022 election are currently available and must be returned to Town Hall by March 22, according to Select Board chair Andy Hogeland ’76. The ballot for this year’s election, which will take place on May 10, will include two three-year seats on the Select Board.

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