HAMILTON — A proposal for the town to share a facilities manager with Wenham is nearing agreement and providing a microcosm of problems that might be encountered as the towns consider consolidating other services.

The Hamilton selectmen took up the discussion at their meeting last night, with Town Administrator Candace Wheeler noting there was "some healthy back-and-forth" last week because the towns have somewhat different employment policies, and the employee's hours would be split 50-50 between the towns.

Wheeler said she anticipated those problems being ironed about by the next board meeting, but Chairman Dick Low, in his swan song as a town father, raised another query.

He said he was concerned that the proposed agreement gives either town the opportunity to withdraw from it each year, so long as not less than six months' notice is given. Low said he was afraid that on Dec. 31, six months before the end of the fiscal year, budget preparations would be in early development, and officials might not be comfortable committing to their approximate $20,000 share of the salary.

Low wondered if three months might not be more practical.

"Here is the concern voiced," Wheeler said. "If it was only three months, budgets could already be printed."

Finance Director Deborah Nippes-Mena agreed, saying she could be convinced to go as low as four months, preferred five and was OK with six.

"I wouldn't go under four months," she said. "A $20,000 swing is a hard swing to cover" that late in the day, she said.

What's more, she said she felt sure that if her Wenham counterpart, Sarah Johnson, was sitting next to her, she'd push for six months, since Wenham dives into its budget process sooner than Hamilton.

"Admitting, "I'm not burdened by any knowledge about this," Low said if there was good reason for the extended notification, he was agreeable.

If no other wrinkles appear, the board is expected to approve the agreement next Monday night.

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