Library town report format questioned

WILTON – As he has the last several years, resident Joe Torre questioned the legality of the format used by the Trustees of the Wilton Public-Gregg Free Library for their financial statement in the annual town report.

The report is impossible to figure out, he told selectmen on Jan. 29.

“It’s not a question of the numbers, it’s the format. What I want is transparency,” he said.

There was “$56,000 of public money not accounted for,” he added.

He presented a format used by the town’s Trustees of Trust Funds and suggested the selectmen require its use by the library. His concern, he said, was that use of trust funds and bequests were not noted, nor was the use of “undesignated fund balances.” He wanted to know if those funds were used, returned to the town, or carried forward.

Library Trustee Ron Brown said much of that money was “restricted funds,” but agreed the report should be clearer. He said they had met with the budget committee and planned a joint meeting.

Selectman Kermit Williams said the selectmen do not have the authority to ask the trustees to use (Torre’s suggested format.)

“They are an independent agency, not a department of the town,” Williams said. He also said he hoped they would consider the changes.

Torre said the report “doesn’t meet the RSA standards and shouldn’t be accepted.”

Williams said they accept all reports as presented. They attest only to accuracy of only the town meeting warrant.

Brown said the trustees had met with the Budget Committee and “were making a good faith effort” to reach a conclusion.

Budget Committee Member Harry Dailey, as library liaison, said he had accepted the trustee’s invitation for a meeting.

“The selectmen decided to treat the (library budget line) as a donation rather than an allocation,” Dailey said. “The Budget Committee assumed the unexpended funds were returned to the town as other departments do.”

Town Administrator Scott Butcher said, “the issue is transparency concerning how funds are spent. People are concerned about that.”

Brown said, “That is what we are trying to accomplish. We are interested in transparency.”

It was decided the trustees would provide the Budget Committee with the requested figures for their next meeting and discuss the format change at their meeting on Feb. 14, too late to change the page in the annual town report. A report in the new format could be distributed as a hand-out at town meeting on March 15.

Selectman Chairman Bill Condra said he would like to see the issue settled.

“This has come up every other year since I’ve been (a) selectman,” Condra said. “It appears the Budget Committee doesn’t understand the format, and the library is willing to work on it with them.”

It was noted that “no one has suggested any impropriety,” and the townspeople have always supported the library.

In other business, Fire Chief Jim Cutler provided an update with ongoing negotiations with the Milford Area Communications Center.

“We are revising the language (in the contract) to make it more palatable to the member towns and clarify what would happen if one town chose to withdraw,” Cutler said.

Condra said, “The ball is in Milford’s court. We have hired a new legal counsel and asked them to look at the inter-municipal agreements.”

Cutler commented on the use of the station meeting room by other town agencies.

“We’re happy to have you, but remember, this is a fire department first. If there is a fire call, cars in the parking lot are apt to be blocked in,” Cutler said.

That happened recently, he said, causing some complaints by those at the meeting.