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Travel policy amended for board members

The town board approved an amended policy relating to board travel expenses this week.

Board members recently implemented a 20-day approval process for travel.

Prior to that, board and staff were required to request travel authorization at least 10 days prior to departure.

On Tuesday, Town Manager Susan Holecheck said the revised policy will give her and the town finance director a better estimate of the costs the town will incur for travel to a specific event or training session.

Additionally, Holecheck said some board members believed the language in the previous policy was too harsh.

“I softened it a bit. Instead of saying ‘do not include,’ I tried to soften the language to say ‘should not include.’ It’s interesting because we just had a retreat where Pool/Pact tried to bring up the fact that the board implements policy, but then you let staff figure out how to effectuate that policy. I believe that travel authorization policy is needed, so I brought it back,” she said.

The town manager also said that at present, there are two different policies in place for both the board and staff which cannot afford the same flexibility.

Vice Chair Bill Dolan objected to having two different policies during a previous board meeting this month.

Holecheck was quick to reply that there are distinct differences between the board and staff when it comes to official duties.

“You heard someone say we should just have one personnel policy but the personnel policy is for employees and there’s a lot of issues that elected officials don’t face.” Holecheck said. “When staff is using their lunch hour to be on company time, there are liability issues. Employees should not tip more than 15 percent but we allow the board greater flexibility than that so there really is a difference between personnel policy and town board policy,” Holecheck said.

Under the revised travel policy, the board laid out guidelines for one-day trips, return days as well as departure days.

Meals were also part of the policy where board members were advised not to seek reimbursement if a meal was provided at an event.

Any miscellaneous costs such as parking and taxi fares must be listed on the reimbursement form with an estimated cost.

Mileage is based on the actual mileage to and from the destination only on private vehicles.

Board member Amy Riches made a point about cash advances for travel.

“In my case, if it falls on a certain time of the month and I don’t have the money to go but I have to go, In that case, I would like the cash advance and then you just put the receipts against it. There are certain times when it gets close to the end of the month and I am requested to go somewhere, I may not be able to do it and it’s good to know that’s available for me should I need it,” she said.

Dolan, meanwhile, gave the impression that he was not fully in favor of the revised policy.

“I think you’ve made it a little more restrictive for us than staff,” he said.

The vice chair’s wife, Marilyn Dolan, provided public comment after a motion to accept the item was made by board member Bob Adams.

Marilyn Dolan wanted to clarify that anytime she accompanies her husband during travel, she always pulls her own weight.

“I don’t want it coming out in the press that Bill Dolan takes his wife everywhere with him because we do travel together a lot. I do pay my own way,” she said.

After further comments, board members eventually voted unanimously to approve the revised travel policy.

In other town business, the board also voted to approve changing the start time of regular meetings from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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