Bristol selectboard OKs fiscal policies

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard approved two new fiscal policies at their Monday, Oct. 17, meeting: an amended purchasing policy and a set of conditions for town credit card use.
The credit card policy was approved on the heels of recent selectboard debate surrounding the issuance of town credit cards to department heads, a discussion triggered by a People’s United Bank policy, which only issues credit cards to specific individuals. Simply put: The bank is unwilling to issue just one town credit card.
The selectboard’s major concern about these new MasterCards is the larger opportunity presented for embezzlement. But town administrator Bill Bryant told the board that this new policy would greatly reduce the risk of such activity.
At the selectboard’s previous meeting on Oct. 3, he explained that embezzlement occurs when there is a lack of oversight. Since transactions will be heavily regulated and undergo the scrutiny of at least four sets of eyes — a department supervisor’s, town treasurer Therese Kirby’s, Bryant’s and at least one selectboard member’s — Bryant is confident that the risk of unauthorized purchases will be greatly reduced.
Town department heads have requested credit cards, Bryant said, so that they do not have to spend funds out of pocket for town purchases. Previously, town officials were reimbursed after the fact.
Kirby said on Monday that these cards have a $1,000 credit limit and must be paid in full at the end of each month. Kirby will hold onto the cards and keep a log of when cards are released and returned. The cards must be returned within two business days unless otherwise approved by the selectboard or town administrator, and cards require purchase orders approved by the town administrator before they can be signed out.
No credit cards will be issued in Kirby’s name or assistant treasurer Peter Ryan’s name to avoid conflicts of interest. After using a credit card, the user’s supervisor must approve all receipts and related documentation.
The town will also retain four store credit cards — an Albertson’s Purchase Advantage Card, a Home Depot card, a Staples card and an Exxon Mobil card — that will be covered by the new policy.
As for the new purchasing policy, it was adopted — as the policy states — to ensure high quality goods and services “at the lowest possible price,” present qualified suppliers with equal opportunities, and support local businesses. The policy will also require purchase orders and otherwise regulate the process.
The policy breaks purchases into three categories: major purchases, described as those of $5,000 or more, regular purchases of $1,501-$4,999 and incidental purchases of less than $1,500.
According to the policy, major purchases must be approved by the selectboard and subjected to a publicly advertised bidding process. Regular purchases will be made via “competitive solicitation such as bids, written or verbal quotes from two or more vendors. Purchase orders for such purchases must be approved by the town administrator,” per the policy.
In terms of selecting a vendor, the policy states, “Purchases shall be awarded to the lowest, best qualified and responsible bidder.”
Although the policy encourages competitive prices, incidental purchases do not require a formal bid. For all credit card activity above $200, the policy states, transactions should be issued a purchase order before they are made.
In other news from the selectboard’s Monday meeting:
• Engineer Corey Mack of the Resource Systems Group in Burlington presented his final report about his feasibility study — financed by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission — for a pedestrian path between Bristol’s downtown district and Lincoln Gap Road.
He indicated that the path, which could cost between $3-4.5 million depending on its location, would be best suited for the northern side of Route 116/17 because cutting into the rock would cost less than creating a retaining wall over the New Haven River.
“This is a feasibility study,” said Bryant. “It’s a report. It will still have alternatives discussed in it, so if at some point in the future the town is ready to implement it, (it can)… Nothing is cast in concrete until we pour concrete.”
Bryant also indicated that this project might be made feasible in a few years if the town could collaborate with the Vermont Agency of Transportation when the state repaves that section of Route 116/17.
• The selectboard waived a 45-day public notice for Four Hills Farm off of Burpee Road, so that the farm can apply directly to the Public Service Board for a certificate of public good to build an electric generation facility powered by methane.
• Although the selectboard identified a federal funding opportunity to mitigate future hazards, such as flooding, the town simply doesn’t have the people power to get the application out, said Bryant.
“It would require 50-100 hours to put together the application,” he said. “We just don’t have the staff time to do that.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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