Paul Branscombe named Wilton town administrator

WILTON – It’s official, Paul Branscombe in the new town administrator, and he is settling into the position he has been filling as interim administrator since May 3. Former Administrator Scott Butcher and his two assistants resigned abruptly on March 26, citing conflicts with the select board.

That left the town office with no employees and a pile of uncompleted tasks.

The Select Board made the announcement on July 2. Branscombe had been a finalist in the process that hired Butcher.

In an interview on July 6, Branscombe spoke briefly about what has been called “the financial mess” that he inherited.

“They were all overwhelmed,” he said of his predecessor, due to a lack of experience. Butcher had never before served as administrator. “And apparently he was one of those people who couldn’t ask for help.”

Branscombe, 69, brings a solid background in management to the position. He previously served as administrator for the towns of Gilmanton and Ashland. He currently lives in Louden and lived in Worcester, Mass., for about 20 years where he worked in the insurance industry.

“We’ve restored the selectmen’s office,” Branscombe. He gave a great deal of credit for that to his new assistant Janice Pack and Finance Officer Deborah Harling, both of whom with considerable experience in town affairs. “Among us, we have about 39 years of experience. I feel very good about this.”

Next week this town will face an audit, he said, “and I can’t say it will be a good one. The town has been using Quick Books, which is not a recognized municipal system.” Under Butcher, the town had contracted with Business Management Systems, Inc. to set up a new system, but the contract was never implemented.” They have since been using both systems in parallel.

He met recently with Jim Foley of BMSI to get that on track again. “We need to be accepted by the (state Department of Revenue Administration) again.” Some of the problems go back a number of years, he said.

This week he will hold his first meeting with department heads, and after that staff meetings. “I want to hear from Land Use and the assessor. Then we have to start getting ready for budget season.”

He has “great department heads,” he said, public works, ambulance, fire and police departments. “Everyone is so accommodating.”

Part of the problem, he said, was lack of communication in the previous administration. “We haven’t been able to get reports, but now we can, thanks to the staff. Things weren’t being done correctly and it has been time consuming” to get records and files straightened out.

With a functioning office again, he said, “we’ve taken a lot of responsibility back from the selectmen.”

There are a lot of on-going projects that need to be dealt with: dams and bridges, work that was postponed, including the New Reservoir Dam which is under a letter of deficiency from the state; Old County Road Bridge which will require extensive, and expensive, stone work; and the possible closing of the Stagecoach Road bridge. A hearing on that is set for July 16.

“We’re working with DES on the dam,” he said, and a required archeological survey has been completed. No ancient Native American presence was found.

“I’m working with the Economic Development Committee on the welcome signs and updating the town website, and the Riverwalk is coming up. (Those projects) fall on the select board, not the committee.”

He would also like to work more closely with the schools, joint purchasing of supplies, for instance. “The school is the major part of the tax bill,” and they should not be totally separate entities.

“I have an open door policy,” Branscombe said. “Come in and chat. Those people out there are our eyes and ear,s” so we can know what is going on.