Posted on 17 November 2009.
By: Maria Moore
The agenda for the Board of Selectmen Meeting yesterday evening, Monday, November 16, the last meeting to be chaired by First Selectman Earl MacInnes, consisted of one item that captured the public’s interest: ‘Transitional Items’, so when Earl announced that, since there was noone present from the newly-elected Board, he was tabling the item, there was an immediate outcry from those present.
First to protest was Selectwoman Phyllis Webb, a mother with two young children at home, who commented that she had put in a great deal of time and thought into pulling the items together and it was disrespectful for the incoming administration not to be there. Paul Mahoney, a member of the Conservation Commission, and a father with two children at home, agreed with Phyllis, saying that he had come especially to the meeting to hear the list of transitional items and to be sure that the ongoing recycling initiative with the board was not going to be lost in the transition.
Chris Jones, whose 7 children are now all grown, exclaimed in his inimitable way: “I’m up at 7 o’clock at night banging on the door to be let in!” Which was true except, in the interests of disclosure, he had first banged on the windows of the Sessions Conference Room to be let into the meeting through the front door of the building, rather than walk around to the back of the building where the entrance had been left open.
“Did anyone tell them it was on the agenda?” Reggie Smith, a newly-elected member of the Board of Finance, asked, and Christine Hayward confirmed that the newly-elected First Selectman Dan Jerram knew of the agenda item. Phyllis, however, exclaimed: “They should not have to be called on the phone!”
As Phyllis started to enumerate the items on the list that were of concern to her, Reggie left his seat next to Alesia Kennerson, also a newly-appointed member of the Board of Finance and a mother with one son at home, and he went into the hallway to call Dan Jerram to ask him to come down to the meeting. As Phyllis spoke, Reggie came back into the room and said in a low voice: “Dan is coming. He’s taking care of his kids.” “That’s not acceptable!” Came the response.
Selectwoman Phyllis Webb Voices Her Special Concerns
Fencing at Brown’s Corner:
Phyllis specifically mentioned the issue of the cost for fencing in the fill at Brown’s Corner. She said that Dan LeGeyt, the town’s Highway Superintendent, had done the calculations, and had come up with $26,730 as the cost for fencing. “That was not correct: it’s $2,700!” Phyllis said, emphasizing again that it had been due to Dan’s poor math that had led to the gross miscalculation, and that it had been thanks to Christine (Hayward, Administrative Assistant to the First Selectman) who had followed up and clarified the cost.
Appeal of Dept. of Labor Arbitration Board’s Decision to reinstate Steve Joseph:
On the matter of the Dept. of Labor Appeal in the Steve Joseph case, Phyllis said that the new administration should contact the labor attorney and put a stop to the decision (to appeal the Arbitration Board’s decision to reinstate Steve to his job in the town’s Highway Department). Phyllis said there were big costs associated with the appeal and that no funds had been budgeted for those costs. “They should put a halt to that.” Phyllis said, emphasizing again that she had not been in agreement with the other two members of the Board of Selectmen when they had decided to appeal the Arbitration Board’s decision.
Wastewater Treatment Plant:
With regard to the wastewater treatment plant, Phyllis said that both the WPCA and the Building Oversight Committee had worked very hard on the project and that right now the project was ahead of schedule and and budget. She said: “The WPCA members have worked very hard and it would be my hope the next administration wold recognize that and provide the support they have not been getting and a better outlet for communication. The WPCA and the BOC have to cross paths and the next group of leaders will have to try to bridge the communication gap to map it go smoothly.”
Highway Department Related Items:
Phylis said she has an issue with the overtime request by the Highway Department Superintendent and the Brodie House agreement. Â She said both items had been allowed to linger too long and that the new board should look at those as priorities, with sensitivity and keeping in mind the budget.
Once Phyllis had finished going through her items of concern, Earl talked about getting the town’s heating fuel from Quinico again, the town’s supplier for the past two years, and he recommended that on both the heating oil and the diesel fuel purchases, the town take the New Haven Harbor prices, since that had worked out well the previous year.
He then went on to congratulate the newly-elected officials, and he thanked Phyllis and Bill Marchand for their service on the Board. Â He particularly thanked Bill for his 6 years of service on the Board, and he noted they had shared the same philosophy of fiscal conservatism.
At this point, at 7:20 p.m. Dan Jerram walked into the meeting, saying: “How’s everybody doing?”
Earl then started going over the Transition Items on the Board’s list. Â A copy of this tw-page list is included at the bottom of this report. Â Earl’s notable comments follow, the rest are noted in the list below:
Earl’s Comments On Transitional Items
Department of Labor Arbitration Board Appeal:
Earl said the Arbitration Board had found Steve Joseph had abused the sick policy, but that the punishment had been harsh. Â He said there were a number of issues to be appealed and that he had filed the appeal.
Phyllis added that she had voted against the appeal, that it was a costly process for the town with no budget for it, and she urged the new Board to consider not moving forward with the appeal.
Dan Jerram said the new Board would take a look at all the issues of the case.
Other Highway Department related issues:
Earl mentioned the Dan LeGeyt overtime issue saying only: “It won’t go away, you will have to deal with it.”
Regarding the outstanding Brodie House rental agreement, he said he had never received a formal recommendation from the Task Force on it, at which Reggie Smith, who had facilitated the Task Force looked very surprised. Â Earl said though, that the Task Force had indicated a certain amount for the rent and he had taken it on himself to call the tenant’s attorney and he had made the offer which the tenant had rejected.
Brown’s Corner Fill:
Earl said Attorney Roraback had given his opinion on the letter that had been written by the head of Hemlock Construction and that it was in no way a contract. Â Until the situation is clarified with a contract, the fill belongs to the town.
Phyllis again brought up the huge discrepancy in the price quoted by Earl for the fencing and the actual price, and she informed Dan that the price was actually $2,700.
Brodie Surdam Task Force report:
Earl said the report had come in on the day of a previous meeting and had been tabled.
There had been 4 responses and Dave Holcomb, an arborist who lives on Church Street North, seemed the most qualified since he had been a tree warden in the past.
Rec. Department’s Day Care Program:
Earl said that was still an issue, and Christine added that Rec had asked to be put on the agenda for the first meeting of the new Board.
Replacement of Police Car:
A police car had been in an accident and needed replacing. Â Earl said that a possibility was to sell the police truck and with the $4,100 from insurance the new Board might consider getting a used Explorer, the same type of vehicle the MDC uses.
The committee is looking to reorganize. Â Our reporter has an outstanding report to write on the Blight Committee’s inability to get a quorum on two past occasions.
Redesign of traffic pattern at the Route 44/Bridge Street/Central Avenue intersection:
Earl said there were some designs for the redesign of the traffic pattern at that intersection; the new pattern would be to have traffic go up Bridge St. and come down Central Avenue, making both streets one way. Â The DOT needed to approve the design.
Appointment of additional Board of Assessment Appeals members:
The Assessor had requested an ordinance to appoint additional persons to the Board of Assessment Appeals to help out with appeals. Â Earl said that they don’t normally get paid. Â They had been paid this past year because it was a revaluation year.
Request from Assessor to change Beach Road to Pond Road Extension:
This would be to facilitate emergency vehicles’ access to the road.
WPCA and BOC Issue Revisited:
Phyllis repeated for Dan what she had said earlier about the WPCA, the BOC and their need for help in communication better with each other. Â Phyllis characterized it as their needing “the utmost support and a lot of warm fuzzies.”
Dan responded that he has experience with Building Oversight Committees and that he has already been in contact with the BOC.
Phyllis emphasized that it was the WPCA that needs support for the work they’re doing and Dan responded that it was a big priority for the town.
The issue was brought up that the WPCA had had an “illegal meeting” because the minutes of that meeting had never been filed with the Town Clerk and that the motions of that meeting needed to be approved. Â Â Reggie said that the problem was that the original motion was written by the attorney was not approved by the WPCA. Â Earl criticized the WPCA for one last time, saying: “We have certain boards that think they can write a better resolution that the attorney.” Â Reggie said that they should just approve the solution that had been approved by the town meeting.
Earl then mentioned that there were 2 openings on the WPCA and that they needed to be filled by users.
Snow Removal: An issue of separation of church and state?
After addressing the part-time winter help that the town hires to supplement the Highway Department employees, Earl then found the opportunity to address what he said was an issue of separation of church and state, but which he made sure everyone present understood was meant to embarrass Phyllis at the end of the last Board of Selectmen meeting that they would serve on together. “I did not want to embarrass Phyllis” he found the opportunity to repeat several times during his recounting of the offending decision by Phyllis, which he said he had not wanted to override at the time, to have the town remove the snow from the sidewalk leading up to the North Congregational Church which he said was a private piece of property and so the church’s responsibility. Phyllis responded that at the time there had been a question as to who actually owned that piece of property, whether it was the church or the private tennis association next to the church. She said that needed to be resolved, but in the meantime, since the town’s snowblower was already clearing snow on that road, she didn’t see why they couldn’t clear another 20 feet or so and keep that stretch of sidewalk safe for everyone to use.
Meeting Ends With Praise for Town Hall Employees, And Christine in Particular
Phyllis praised the town hall employees, from whom, she said, she had received tremendous support. She said they had seen their tax dollars used poorly and yet they had sustained themselves throughout it. “I can’t ask you strongly enough to support the employees.” Phyllis said to Dan. “In particular,” she continued, “I want to thank Christine who has practically run the town the last 2 years, and has been the rock that many have seen and felt.”
Earl added his thanks to the town employees, many of whom he said could go to work for a larger municipality and earn a lot more money.
Bill Marchand also thanked the town employees in keeping the municipality functioning, and then he thanked Chris Jones, who was at the meeting, and he asked Chris to convey his thanks to Bill Baxter as well, saying that they had had their differences but they had all enjoyed golf and that it had all worked out.
As Earl was about to end the meeting our reporter, looking ahead to another two weeks of not having a First Selectman in Town Hall, as has been the case for about a month already, asked Earl: “Since I’m new at this: I know Dan takes over in the beginning of December, will you be available at Town Hall ’till then?” “You’ll just have to come down to Town Hall and see.” Earl responded. “Will I find you here?” “You got your response.” Earl answered. At a payrate of $63,900+ per year, which our reporter and all residents are paying through their taxes, she found Earl’s response particularly unsatisfactory.
On checking in with Dan after the meeting, he confirmed that legally he won’t be able to begin work until December 1. Phyllis said that she’s available to help.