STRONG – Newly appointed selectmen’s chairman Rupert Pratt said Friday that he hopes to decrease the number of acrimonious meetings the board has become known for.
“Myself, being chair, I intend to control the meetings. We’re not going to have any free-for-alls” like those that have happened in recent months, Pratt said, when shouting matches and swearing broke out between selectmen and townspeople.
“I’ll shut (the meetings) down first,” he said. “We’re going to have discussion – and considerate discussion – but nothing’s going to get out into shouting matches. That isn’t doing anybody any good,” Pratt added.
Nearly 40 of the town’s approximately 1,200 residents people showed up at the April 11 selectmen’s meeting, some to discuss missing town tax records, others to question the board about rumors that newly elected board members plan to slash town employees’ benefits.
Town Treasurer Sandra Howard said Friday that it was discovered tax records from 1939, 1940 and 1941 were missing on April 5 when some residents were searching for information about payments made in the 1930s and 1940s.
After learning of the missing books, selectmen changed the locks on the door to the town vault and made a new rule stating that anyone going into the vault to look at the books must be accompanied by a town employee.
But no one knows where the missing books are. “The town records have been moved around over the past 50, 60, 70 years,” Pratt said. “We had no recollection of where they might be.”
Town Clerk Eunice Shurtleff said police have not been notified because “apparently the records have been missing for a while.” There are no duplicate copies anyone “knows of,” she said.
Pratt said that rumors of town employee benefits being cut are just that: rumors. But he added the town may vote in the future to require town workers to pay part of their insurance cost. “We’re trying to squeeze and save wherever” we can, he said, “but at the same time, you need to be fair to your employees.”
Currently, town employees are not required to pay any of their premium. “I don’t begrudge them having that kind of benefit,” Pratt said, but “other people are looking at the fact they can’t get that kind of benefit,” and “insurance jumps 20-25 percent here every year.”
So in December, when the issue comes up, “there might be some discussion,” Pratt said. But, in his opinion, anyway, the town is certainly not going to take away employees benefits, he added.