I tele-attended the BOS meeting tonight.
The new chairman is Linda Murray with Sarah Silk as vice-chair.
Given that the board members have not changed, assignments to the various town committees was pretty much a re-assignment. I don’t know when this practice started, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it contributes to the problem that people are not willing to run for Selectman. Some members took on four or five assignments. Tom Bickford points out that these members have no authority to speak for the BOS as a whole, so the purpose is questionable. It seems to me that the various town committees should be able to operate autonomously, and that the citizens would be better served by the various chairmen sending or presenting reports of their activities, rather than having it filtered back by a BOS member. I commend the Selectmen for putting in the time but disapprove of the BOS micromanaging the town committees.
Appointments of citizen applicants to the various town committees was sparse. There were no positions that were over-applied, so all volunteers were appointed. There are many vacancies yet to be filled and the Town Manager intends to advertise again.
There are three vacancies on the town Energy Committee which has not been active. As a past member of that committee I can understand why. During my tenure I put in a lot of time developing proposals to secure energy improvement grants for various town facilities. After securing $74,000 in grants to improve several town buildings, the town told me that because I wasn’t a town employee I couldn’t be involved in spending the money. End result: $48,000 for Public Safety heat pumps were poorly installed, are not working, and big surprise – is the subject of another lawsuit. Total savings $0. People can find better ways to spend their time.
Dave Ford went over the proposed improvements to Depot Square. It’s pretty much as described in my post, but the method of funding some of the project was interesting. Apparently the bulk of the project concerns relocating non-compliant ADA parking, so that is a major source of funding. It gets a little creative when the removal of two electric poles, burying conduit for power and phone, and new ornamental street lighting are funded as ADA improvements. Also, the bulk of the windfall from a snowless winter will be spent replacing the sidewalk along Railroad Avenue beside Blacks. I don’t necessarily disagree with the work being done, but I do question the way that surplus funds are appropriated and used for other purposes.
Piggybacking on ADA seems to be an easy way to get funding for small projects. Here’s another example. Maybe somebody needs to get the official accounting of the funds appropriated under these warrant articles and challenge the authorization. If you are someone that cares about making the town more accessible, your priorities for the use of excess funds appropriated for that purpose might be different.
As expected, the Garwoods Inc. lease of Dockside was approved without debate. Some of you may recall that I spoke out against this long term commitment by the town at the 2011 Deliberative Session. At a previous BOS meeting Garwoods Inc had only asked for a three year renewal, and the Board of Selectmen turned it into an offer of ten years. At that meeting Dave Ford suggested that we sell it to them.
My point was that Garwoods Inc is a corporation, and ten years is a long time. While everybody loves the Roarke family and how they operate their facilities, things can change over ten years and the corporation could find itself being run by someone less satisfactory. At the deliberative session in 2011 Kathy Eaton said I was wrong and that a change of ownership of Garwoods Inc would nullify the lease. I subsequently examined the lease in place at that time and saw no such provision.
After the lease was approved, the Garwoods representative reiterated their request for the town to install more lighting in the area and reminded the town that we need to paint the place again. Mr. Bowers suggested that we paint the place purple. Perhaps he too is wondering if the leasehold improvements that Sarah Silk believes will be forthcoming from a long term lease are going to materialize. If we wanted them to take responsibility for routine maintenance, we should have negotiated that into the lease. Who do you think could do it more efficiently?
Under new business Mr. Owen informed the board that negotiations for a new electric power contract for 2014-2016 are looking promising. He implied that due to low natural gas prices to which wholesale electric rates are pegged, the exploratory rates were favorable and that final negotiations with four short-list companies would yield some electric rate relief in 2014.
During the final citizen input session, Tom Bickford asked if the Selectmen intend to address his criticisms of the way the Fire Department is operated. The board was non-committal.
They then went into non-public session.
Dockside Lease $3,125 per month adjusted annually by an amount equal to the Boston CPI
Prior to the BOS meeting, I emailed the Town Manager questions that I hoped the BOS would discuss, like the basics of the Dockside lease that was going to be approved, including how long is the lease for, what is the monthly rent amount, what is the expected profit from the lease.
I was surprised to learn that the town doesn’t track the expenses inherent in owning and leasing a restaurant building close enough to report whether the rent produces a surplus (profit) or a deficit (Loss) because its not set up as an enterprise fund like Pop Whalen or Municipal electric.
I was also surprised that the amount of the lease was never discussed at the BOS meeting, In fact, Mr. Owen graciously e-mailed me the information prior to the BOS meeting, so I wouldn’t have to take the time to attend and ask the questions during the public input session. I’m glad he did, because the BOS never mentioned the actual monthly rent.
However, for those interested:
“Under the new lease, the monthly rent will start out the same as under the old lease ($3,125/mo), but will then be adjusted each year in December going forward by an amount equal to the Boston CPI (Consumer Price Index), so that the lease revenue will no longer be a stagnant amount, but will increase each year with the rate of inflation.”