2020 Report of the Barrington Select Board
This past year has presented many new challenges to our community and to the services provided by the Town. The Barrington Select Board and municipal employees overcame the challenges and continued to make valuable progress maintaining fiscal responsibility while providing exceptional services to residents. The Town had many accomplishments in 2020 in areas which include infrastructure, financial, personnel, pandemic response, conservation, and transparency. Please find details of these accomplishments in the paragraphs below and throughout the 2020 Annual Report.
The Select Board recognizes that investments in our infrastructure, facilities, and equipment contributes to providing improved and efficient services to the community. In March, Town Meeting approved $400,000 toward the replacement of the Greenhill Road Bridge which is expected to begin construction in 2022. Early in 2020, the Select Board convened a Transfer Station and Recycling Center Committee to provide advice about making adjustments and improvements to that facility. The Fire Department commissioned a cab and chassis remount of the Fire Tanker which saved money and stayed current with the equipment replacement schedule. A formal drawdown plan was developed to guide the seasonal operations of the Swains Lake Dam. Late in 2020, the Select Board advertised an RFQ for on-call professional engineering services and approved a $50,000 renovation to the Highway Garage facility to address operational flow concerns. In 2021, the Select Board looks forward to constructing the Town Hall approved in 2019, completing a ten-year road improvement plan, and working with the Library Trustees to develop a new Library plan which residents can support.
The global pandemic has placed increased financial pressure on families, businesses, and local governments alike. The Select Board monitored these financial impacts closely in 2020. The Town was able to secure nearly $400,000 in federal and State grants to help offset the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the operating budget was utilized conservatively, creating a larger-than-normal surplus. The 2021 budget was developed with care to the ongoing financial pressure being experienced in the community. The Select Board is proud to present a reduced operating budget in 2021. The 2020 municipal tax rate represented a 0% increase, resulting in a stable municipal tax rate for the tenth straight year. In March, voters supported Select Board-sponsored adjustments to exemptions and credits which provided property tax relief to property owners. Early in 2020, the Town Treasurer performed a bank review which secured the Town improved services and higher interest rates. Late in 2020, the Select Board approved updates to the Transfer Station and Building Department user fees and sold seven properties generating $215,000 in additional revenue.
Town employees and volunteers are directly responsible for the exceptional services provided by the Town. The Select Board has demonstrated a commitment to supporting all of Barrington’s public servants. In April, the Select Board implemented a comprehensive compensation study with a new pay plan and adjusted benefits. The compensation study implementation included a sidebar agreement with the Police Union. Later in 2020, the Select Board negotiated a new, mutually beneficial, three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Police Union (see Warrant Article #15). In 2021, the Select Board will continue to support staff and volunteers.
The Barrington Select Board worked diligently to monitor and respond appropriately to the local impacts of a global pandemic. In addition to the financial measures previously referenced, the Select Board took swift action to assist Barrington’s business community. During the first few months of the pandemic, the Select Board voted to waive the red tape of site review requirements in order to allow business to expand their services to stay viable. This waiver remains in effect until June 1, 2021. The Select Board supported the Town Clerk and Moderator in executing safe and efficient elections with record-breaking voter turnout. In 2021, the Select Board will continue to prioritize health and safety while our community experiences the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barrington’s commitment to conservation was demonstrated by multiple achievements in 2020. The Goodwill Conservation Area was expanded to nearly 300 acres. The Forester of Record developed forestry stewardship plans for three of Barrington’s Town-owned and conserved properties. The necessary improvements to the Richardson Pond Dam are underway; the project is currently in the engineering/design phase. In 2021, the Select Board will continue to support expanding the recreational opportunities on Barrington’s conserved land.
A foundational tenet of the Select Board’s approach to governing is openness and transparency. Town government, above all else, should be accessible to the public. In 2020 the Town continued to find ways to make improvements centered around transparency. In March, voters approved funding to implement body-worn cameras in the Police Department. After a competitive selection process and policy development, the cameras will be implemented early in 2021. The pandemic-related transition to virtual meetings has dramatically increased attendance and community participation in public meetings. The Select Board is exploring the possibility of maintaining a form of virtual participation even after in-person meetings resume. Although the Select Board meetings have been recorded for a few years, the virtual meeting platform has facilitated the recording of Planning and Zoning meetings which can now be found on the Town’s YouTube Channel. The Select Board minutes have been improved to include links to supporting documents and the specific portion of the video recording where each topic is discussed. Finally, the Select Board was eager to support the creation of the Barrington, NH – Town Government Facebook page.
In conclusion, the Select Board is proud of the progress made in 2020 and looks forward to maintaining the momentum into 2021. Finally, the Board wishes to thank all the volunteers and employees who have dedicated themselves to public service as Barrington looks forward to another great year.