Webster approves all items on warrant and plans to offer compensation to future town clerk

  • Webster residents gather in the Grange Hall to vote on the town’s budget at the annual meeting. SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN/ Monitor staff

Published: 3/18/2023 7:04:53 PM

After recognizing the contributions of Webster citizens in the military and the volunteers who worked during the snowy town elections, residents approved all the items on the Town Meeting warrant and a slightly lower operating budget than the previous year on Saturday.

However, it was the proposal regarding the town clerk’s salary that drew the most attention at the meeting held at the town’s Grange Hall.

The warrant article asked the town to vote for an annual salary of $40,000 for the position of town clerk, with no benefits or health insurance included.

Mary Welch, the newly elected town clerk who replaced Michele Derby, explained that the warrant was written in that manner because she was already on Medicare and did not require health insurance.

However, many voters felt that the town should consider what’s best for the position of town clerk.

Residents expressed their concerns that offering a salary without benefits or incentives might discourage future candidates from applying for the job.

They argued that the position was crucial for the smooth functioning of the town and that it required adequate compensation and benefits to attract the best candidates.

“The town clerk position is a vital position for this town,” said resident and former treasurer Bruce Johnson. “We need the option to offer all of the incentives needed to encourage more and more people to be interested in this work.”

After listening to the comments, an amendment was made to include benefits for future town clerk positions. The compensation will be negotiated as part of the budget process. The amendment was unanimously approved by the voters.

Moving on, Selectman David Hemenway, who was re-elected for another three-year term, introduced the operating budget and announced that Webster had become debt-free after paying off the bond for the safety building.

The voters approved an operating budget of $1.64 million with employment costs, legal fees and insurance. This year’s budget is a 0.4% decrease from the previous year’s budget of $1.65 million.

Several other proposals to add money to the capital reserve funds were approved. Additionally, Webster adopted a community power plan to procure lower electricity rates for residents.

After the town’s business was completed, Derby, the town clerk for the last 15 years, gave her farewell speech and expressed gratitude for the town report being dedicated to her.

“It is with mixed feelings that I left as town clerk,” said a teary-eyed Derby. “I really enjoyed my job serving as your town clerk and the many relationships formed along the way.”

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan covers environmental and energy stories in Bow, Hopkinton, Dunbarton and Warner for the Concord Monitor. In 2022, she graduated from Northwestern University with a master's degree in journalism, specializing in investigative reporting. She also has a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Engineering and is always looking for new ways to incorporate data and visual elements into her stories. Her work has appeared in Energy News Network, Prism Reports and Crain's Chicago Business.

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