Khumalo Streamlines Town Committees

By Michelle Murdock, Freelance Writer

In an ongoing attempt to streamline the town's committee processes, Town Manager Norman Khumalo made several recommendations for changes to the Board of Selectemen at their November 23rd meeting. Three current committees' charges and suggestions for improvements were discussed with the board, including the Economic Development Committee, the ADA Committee and the Cable Advisory Committee.

Khumalo presented his ideas for a new and refocused Economic Developement Committee, stressing that the focus of the new committee should be to work with existing businesses with the goal being leveraging town assetts to improve the business environment, and creating more jobs. Khumalo outlined four major functions for a revised Economic Development Committee:

1) Provide advice, knowledge and expertise to town government on economic development activities; develop marketing initiatives that target existing businessesbased on the state of the economy.

2) Conduct outreach; identify business needs and focus on ensuring growth and retention of businesses currently located in Hopkinton.

3) Identify companies that want to relocate in Hopkinton (secondary area of focus)

4) Link local businesses to state economic resources.

He also discussed two methods of achieving the above objectives; through a town-based committee similar to the previously established Economic Development Committee, or working outside the town committee process by establishing a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce. Khumalo said he had had preliminary conversations with the Chamber in support of this idea, but made it clear that the final decision would rest with the Board of Selectmen.

"I am very excitted about what you have outlined here," said Chairman RJ Dourney.

The other board members also favored partnering with the Chamber of Commerce, but felt that there was more work to do to ensure proper oversight, saying that some type of monitoring by the town would be required.

Khumalo is planning for a future update to the board after further discussions with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber of Commerce hopes to become an active participant in the process.

"The Chamber endorses the proposal put forth by the Town Manager," said Executive Director Tim Kilduff in a follow-up interview.

Kilduff believes that economic development should be fully engaged with the private sector and says that the best spokesmen can speak from experience and should include business leaders who made the decision to locate in Hopkinton and continue to stay here. If the proposal to partner with the Chamber of Commerce is successful, Kilduff says the Chamber will begin identifying business leaders who are Hopkinton residents, but not necessarily those with a business in Hopkinton.

In a related discussion, the board voted to disband the current ADA committee and shift responsibility for overview of the town's ADA needs to the Permanent Building Committee (PBC). The board was unanimous in its support for this change. Khumalo explained that the process of identifying projects for ADA compliance would not change. Reque
sts would still come from the town side and the school side, but would now pass through the PBC before moving forward for funding.

Also discussed was the fate of the current Cable Advisory Committee. Khumalo also recommended a reorganization of this committee which selectmen liaison John Mosher said he has been unable to make any contact with. In the past, the committee served the specific purpose of reviewing cable contracts and was not active on a regular basis. The board suggested giving the newly revised committee a broader scope of responsiblity and requested background information on the current committee to date and its function.

In other business at the Tuesday night meeting, the board voted to approve an application from the owners of Bill's Pizza that would allow serving of beer and wine on the outdoor dining patio. Police Chief Rick Flannery had reviewed the application and recommended that adequate steps be taken to comply with guidelines set by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC). At the meeting that night, he assured selectmen that reasonable steps had been taken and that he was in favor of approving the request.

The discussion regarding Legacy Farms request to allow changes to Host Community Agreement was postponed until the board's next meeting. Khumalo explained that consultant Judy Barrett had been hired to review the requested changes and had just finished a detailed report. Barrett with meet with town officials on Monday, November 29 at 1:15pm at Town Hall with town and a report will be presented to the board at their next scheduled meeting.