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County Commission Minutes 07/10/02

A regular meeting of the County of Dukes County Commissioners was held on Wednesday, July 10, 2002 at 7:30 p.m. in the Conference Room of the County Administration Building, notice of such meeting having been posted as required by law.

Commissioners Present:  Leslie H. Leland, Chairman
                                Robert Sawyer
                                E. B. Collins
                                John Alley (8:45 PM)                    
Roger Wey
                                Leonard Jason, Jr.

Absent:                 Daniel Flynn

Also Present:           Carol Borer, County Manager     
                                Marsha Smolev, Executive Assistant      
                                Sheriff McCormack
                                Noreen Flanders, County Treasurer (7:40PM)
                                Kathryn Roessel, SSA Representative
                                Nelson Sigelman, MV Times
                                Josh Sabatini, Vineyard Gazette
                                Nelson Smith
                                George Schiffer
                                Murray Frank, Health Council

Chairman Leland called the meeting to order at 7:35 PM.

Commissioner Collins Moved that the Minutes of the Meeting of
June 12, 2002 be approved as written.   Commissioner Jason Seconded the Motion.  The Minutes were approved Unanimously.  

The Chairman introduced Cassie Roessel, SSA Representative, who was invited to give an overview of the SSA and to discuss SSA goals and priorities. Ms. Roessel reported that the new SSA CEO, Mr. Raskin, was ‘everything we hoped for and more.’  His priority, she said, after taking the first six months to get up to speed, was to reduce fares.  She added that Mr. Raskin had expressed concern about the lack of management systems, flow of information, and reporting systems.  She believed he would institute these measures in the future.  It was Ms. Roessel’s observation, she said, that the members of the SSA Board were experiencing ‘growing pains.’  She was not experiencing difficulty with changes, she said, since she was new.  It was her belief that the Board needed to speak with one voice, plan policy, and let the new CEO institute it.  She added it was not appropriate to direct management on operations.  She said the Board was currently discussing theories of board governance.

Ms. Roessel distributed a draft list of her ideas about goals:
  • Formalize long -term strategic planning and budgeting
  • Review management structure and personnel, improve routing management reporting
  • Develop new revenue sources
  • Create a more customer-centric culture
  • Review and revise labor strategy and the role of technology, while improving employee job satisfaction and morale
  • Develop an environmental policy.
Discussion followed.  Commissioner Jason asked about communications going directly to the Board but not the CEO.  Ms. Roessel said this was not on the table recently and she didn’t support it.  Commissioner Jason then asked where one could go to hear the conversations about board governance.  Ms. Roessel said mostly they happen through emails and readings and notating articles from the internet.

Commissioner Jason asked if it was true that Bob Murphy who had served the SSA for 24 years had not been allowed to attend Executive Sessions.  Ms. Roessel said he was still welcome as far as she knew, but he’d been asked to leave the last session because it dealt with specific employee discussions.

Commissioner Sawyer voiced his concern that the reduced fares before Island fares.  Ms. Roessel said the Board saw the need to reduce excursions, that a ‘lifeline wasn’t a lifeline unless it was affordable.’  She stressed the need to be fiscally responsible when reducing fares.  Commissioner Sawyer said if fares should not be reduced across the board, but reductions should be concentrated on island fares.  Commissioner Sawyer was also concerned about changes in menu choices for phone reservations.  Ms. Roessel said she would look into it.

Chairman Leland asked costs would be balanced if fares were reduced.  Commissioner Collins cautioned not to speak of profits, that the idea of profit did not apply to the SSA.

Commissioner Sawyer and Ms. Roessel commended the Universal Access Committee for its hard work and impressive presentation to the SSA Board.  Ms. Roessel said it was an excellent example of a well prepared public presentation.

Commissioner Jason asked why not reduce excursion rates with the funds meant for the New Bedford freight line.  Ms. Roessel said the Board didn’t want to, that it wanted to look at the whole picture.  Commissioner Jason asked if it would cause a calamity in the budget to reduce a rate that was increased to provide a service? He said the Vineyard was picking up more than its share.  Commissioner Collins suggested the plan might be to look more long range, to vehicle replacement, to the Oak Bluffs dock.  He said while the funds could go to fare reduction some would usually be held in reserve.
Commissioner Jason said he was willing to see the funds go to replacing the Islander or to the Oak Bluffs’ project, but he’d hate to see it go to a project on Nantucket.  Commissioner Collins agreed.  Commissioner Collins added that if there were surplus funds, they would go ‘into pots’ as required and approved by the Board. Discussion followed about the amount being reserved each year for the Oak Bluffs’ project.

Mr. Schiffer warned that it was dangerous to use a one time cost reduction to deal with fare reduction just because we’re not dealing with freight in New Bedford. Commissioner Collins agreed, since funds might not be available the next year.

The Commissioners thanked Ms. Roessel for her report.  She left at 8:12 PM.  Nelson Smith left at 8:12 PM.

Mrs. Borer recommended that the Commissioners designate Rob Culbert to be their representative to the Cape Pogue DCPC Committee.

Commissioner Jason Moved that the Commissioners designate Rob   Culbert to represent them on the Cape Pogue DCPC Committee.  Commissioner Sawyer Seconded the Motion.  The Vote to appoint
Mr. Culbert was Unanimous.  

Mrs. Borer reported that she met with the Joint Committee on Counties in Barnstable and gave testimony on the State of the County, as did representatives from Nantucket and Barnstable Counties.  She also met with Sheriffs of seven counties.  

Mrs. Borer distributed three letters relating to Airport Grant Assurances and the right of the County Manager to sign them.  She had asked that sections relating to certification of the County Commissioners and Certification of the County Manager be deleted from the Grant Assurances, but MAC refused to do so.  Considering that the County would be responsible for 80% of the funding should the Grant Assurances not be executed by July 10, 2002, Mrs. Borer felt she had no choice but to sign.  She included a letter voicing her hope to reserve the right to assert a challenge regarding the clauses and questioned their enforceability.   She believed this reserved the County’s rights in the future.  She asked to see how other municipalities’ Grant Assurances are written and is awaiting copies.

Commissioner Sawyer called the wording of the last paragraph reserving the County’s right, excellent, but objected to the County Commissioners not having a role in the process.

Nelson Smith returned at 8:19 PM.

Chairman Leland said the Treasurer requested that the Commissioners vote to give her permission to borrow in anticipation of revenues as needed, as was done each year.

Commissioner Sawyer Moved that the Treasurer be given permission
to borrow in anticipation of revenues as needed.  Commissioner Wey Seconded the Motion.  The Vote to Approve the Motion was Unanimous.  

Commissioner Sawyer responded to a call from the Chair for Subcommittee Reports by saying that a representative of the Health Council would like to be heard.  

First, Commissioner Jason asked about plans to demolish the white building at the New York Avenue property.  Mrs. Borer said she was waiting for a permit to demolish.  The cabins would be moved as soon as there was a date from the mover.

Commissioner Sawyer asked which towns had responded to the letter asking for Selectmen to appoint a representative to a Committee to continue the work of the Emergency Medical Services Procurement Committee. Only Chilmark had responded.

Murray Frank, Vice President of the Health Council asked the Commissioners to reconsider the vote they took that endorsed support for the Island Health Plan but asked Health Council members to choose membership on either the Board of the Island Health Plan or the Health Council.  Mrs. Borer reviewed the history.

Commissioner Wey, having voted in favor of the Motion last time, Moved to Reconsider the decision.  Commissioner Sawyer Seconded the Motion.  Chairman Leland repeated the Motion and discussion followed.

Commissioner Jason said that legal counsel had been consulted and the recommendation was to keep the Boards separate and distinct.  For that reason, he said he would vote against a Motion to Reconsider.

Commissioner Wey agreed that counsel had given his opinion, but wondered if there was any way to satisfy everyone. Mr. Frank suggested, as the Health Council had mentioned previously, to endorse the Health Plan and create a Committee that would represent Commissioners and the Health Council to look at the issues.  He added that he knew Rick Manley’s family, had spoken with him, and had a different understanding of the opinion.

Chairman Leland reiterated that Mrs. Borer was following orders when she sent the letter to the Health Council members reporting the Commissioners’ vote and legal opinion that there could be appearances of control and conflicts of interest.  He mentioned that the opinion was in writing as Commissioner Sawyer had requested. The Chairman felt the issue was pretty clear.

Mr. Frank said it was unfair to make people choose, that there had been no effort on the part of the County to be supportive.   He believed the 501(c)(3) was separate as the Commissioners had asked. He said he thought some people wanted to abolish the Health Council.  Chairman Leland said absolutely not, that the Health Council would continue to exist. Discussion followed.  Commissioner Sawyer said he spoke with Mr. Manley and said the letter was explicitly based on the 501(c)(3), that the Commissioners could choose to do it still if they wanted public accountability.  He urged that the Motion to Reconsider be passed and the subcommittee set up to explore ways to make it happen.  He said special legislation could be passed that would allow this.

Chairman Leland noted that the Island Health Plan, Inc. was set up before the Health Council came to the Commissioners.  He stressed that it was already in effect and asked so ‘why do you need us?’

Mr. Frank said if asked to choose, the majority of the Health Council would leave.  Chairman Leland added and new people would come, but Mr. Frank said that would interrupt the work of the Health Council that already had history.  This discussion continued with Commissioner Jason asking what the concern was.  Mr. Frank discussed the fact that there would be an interruption in continuity.  

Discussion continued about the time it would take for legislation and that there would be potential for conflicts during that time if the Health Council and Island Health Plan Boards had the same membership.  Chairman Leland stressed the need to protect the County from liability.  Treasurer Flanders, Vice Chair of the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group questioned why anyone would want liability for a health plan during these times.  She said Harvard Pilgrim, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have seen major financial crises.  She reiterated that the Island Health Plan must not have strings to the County.  Worcester and Middlesex Counties were brought down by crises in their hospitals.  The Plan must be separate.

John Alley arrived 8:45 PM.

Mr. Frank argued they would be separate, but Mrs. Flanders disagreed.  Mrs. Borer added that it was not the intention of the County to dissolve the Health Council.  She said the County would always have a Health Council.

Commissioner Sawyer said he would never participate if it meant liability for the County.  That was why he was suggesting special legislation and urged that it be explored.

Commissioner Collins asked if there were names on the 501(c)(3).  Mr. Frank said yes, they’d written to Health Council members and asked them if they were interested in joining, and then it was filed.  Commissioner Collins said, then it was formed.  He voiced his confusion saying it may be legal, but what about liability since it was already formed.  Mr. Frank asked that the Commissioners make further discussion possible.  Mrs. Borer said meanwhile, there was a Health Council and a 501(c)(3) operating.  She asked how we would deal with these while a committee discussed them or while waiting for legislation. There would be intermingling.  Chairman Leland repeated his concern about protecting the County and said if there was co-mingling, then there was liability and the County couldn’t afford it.  He said the vote was for a good reason.

Commissioner Collins was concerned about the fact that the 501(c)(3) was in existence.  Chairman Sawyer said but it wasn’t doing anything.  Mrs. Borer said it is in the process of receiving funds.  Commissioner Collins favored having 5 people stay with the 501(c)(3) and the other 25 stay on the Health Council while a committee worked on the issues.  Commissioner Wey agreed.  Mr. Frank said he could not give his assurance that this would happen.

The Chairman said he would call for the vote.  Commissioner Sawyer asked if there were any plans for activity by the 501(c)(3) for the next 30 days.  It was mentioned that the Health Council was meeting with physicians at that very time, that a network of doctors was planned to be in place by mid August.

        The Chairman called for the Vote on the Motion to Reconsider:
                In favor – Commissioner Sawyer
                Opposed – Commissioners Jason and Leland
                Abstaining – Commissioners Collins, Alley, and Wey.
        The Motion to Reconsider did not carry.

Commissioner Sawyer said he didn’t hear the vote and asked that it be repeated.   He stressed that this was the last date to reconsider, that if it wasn’t done tonight, it couldn’t be done.  Chairman Leland said the Motion to reconsider failed, and that Commissioner Collins was suggesting a good way to move forward,namely the 5 on the 501(c)(3) and 25 on the Health Council.  Commissioner Jason reminded everyone that Mr. Frank wasn’t sure he could assure compliance.

        Commissioner Sawyer Moved to form a joint subcommittee of 3
        County Commissioners and 3 Health Council members. For the purpose
        Of exploring the operation of the 501(c)(3).  It was amended to add a
        7th member, someone from the Board of the 501(c)(3) as Commissioner
        Collins suggested.  

Mrs. Borer said it would still be intermingling.

        Commissioner Wey Seconded the Motion for discussion.

The Chairman called the idea ridiculous and Commissioner Wey asked that everyone be treated fairly.  The Chair called for the Vote:

        Commissioners Collins, Wey and Sawyer voted ‘Aye.’
        Commissioners Alley, Jason and Leland voted ‘Nay.’
        The Motion did not carry.

        Commissioner Alley Moved to Adjourn. Commissioner Collins
        Seconded the Motion.  The meeting Adjourned at 9:09 PM.

Complete text of meeting is available on tape at the County Commissioner’s office.


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