Advisor says town needs clear rules for grants, budgets, electronics use

by Kate Shunney

Bill Valentine, the town’s temporary advisor employed by Greenwill Consulting, told Hancock officials that several of their current management problems have been caused by a lack of clear policy and procedures in some areas of town government.

Town officials have said they are struggling to track and manage an array of grant applications submitted by former Town Manager Joe Gilbert.

Valentine told council members that they should have a bigger role in overseeing grant activities.

“Anyone wanting to seek a grant has to bring it before the council first,” he said.

Each grant opportunity should be weighed based on the value of the money being granted, what the project is to be funded, what a grant will cost the town in a financial match or responsibility, and what the specifications of the grant are.

Valentine said all applications should be signed by the mayor and all communications about the grant should be shared with council members as they happen.

If a town decides to apply for grant funds, staff should create a folder for that grant and store all documents related to it together in one place, said Valentine.

He and Mayor Tim Smith said they are scrambling, in some cases, to gather information or documents needed for a grant request or award. Valentine said he is only now able to unlock the computer files kept by Gilbert on a town-owned computer.

Valentine advised council they should also have a clear policy about town-owned devices, from cell phones to computers. That policy should state that employees can use the devices, but should not expect to keep or lock any information on them.

Regarding the annual budget, Valentine suggested each council member work directly with one municipal department head to draft their yearly budget document, and then submit that department budget to the general council and mayor by May. That would be the basis of the municipal budget, which must be approved by July 1.

In other business, Valentine asked for the council’s approval to pay a computer consultant $500 to update the town’s website. The upgrade will add a page for tourism-related information about Hancock and another page will be added about development opportunities in town. Council approved the request.

Valentine also asked to be able to reach out to school, college and workforce officials in Washington and Allegany County about creating a “Makerspace” in Hancock. He said a local program could be tied to work skills courses at the high school and regional colleges. Council members said Valentine could go ahead with investigating those options for Hancock.