A special meeting of the County of Dukes County Commissioners was held Monday,
June 9, 2003 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: John Alley, Chairman; Nelson Smith; Leonard Jason, Jr.; Robert Sawyer; Paul Strauss, Leslie Leland
Absent: Roger Wey
Also Present: Dianne Powers, Acting County Manager; Marsha Smolev, Executive Assistant; Noreen Mavro Flanders, County Treasurer; Laurie Perry; Sandra Lothrop, Associate Commissioner (7:43 PM); Sheriff McCormack; David Kann; Ezra Blair, MV Times; Jonathan Burke, Vineyard Gazette; TJ Hegarty, Rodent Control Officer (8:04 PM); Robert Culbert, Water Laboratory Director, Recreation Manager; Tad Crawford, Health Council; Kira Law; Joanna Jernegan; Mev Good; Jacque Cage, RSVP; Philippe Jordi, Executive Director, DCRHA; John McCarthy, Director, Emergency Management.
Chairman Alley opened the meeting at 7:30 PM.
Minutes of May 28, 2003 were approved. Commissioner Leland abstained.
After Commissioner Sawyer asked that an amendment be made to the Minutes of June 2, 2003 (addition of the word ‘individual’ in the second to last paragraph,) a vote to approve the Minutes was postponed until the next meeting.
Philippe Jordi, Executive Director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, asked the Commissioners to consider writing a letter to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to request participation in their Soft Second Loan Program. Mr. Jordi explained the Program and how it would enable families of moderate and low income to be eligible for homeownership. Compass Bank, Mr. Jordi added, had agreed to process these loans. Since DHCD is not accepting applications until fall, the County would be requesting that the Massachusetts Housing Partnership Fund consider loans on a case-by-case basis as funds are available.
Commissioner Sawyer Moved that the County sponsor this as long as there was no risk or obligation to the County, and send a letter as suggested in the draft letter dated June 2, 2003. Commissioner Jason Seconded the Motion. The Motion Passed Unanimously.
Mr. Jordi left at 7:45 PM.
John McCarthy, Director of Emergency Management presented an overview of his Department. He reported that he was working on creating a form that would delineate Emergency Management personnel and their areas of expertise. He was also working on an inventory to identify and locate equipment. Mr. McCarthy was also meeting with responder agencies. He took part in a Region 2 Hurricane drill that was held at the Tisbury School. Mr. McCarthy reported that the County had no MEMA certified current Emergency Management Plan. The County’s role in an emergency was undefined, while the Towns have authority for disasters within their jurisdictions. Mr. McCarthy stressed the need for either mutual aid agreements or memos of agreement, something that would define the County’s role.
The Director of Emergency Management added that he was applying for Homeland Security Funds for emergency equipment, perhaps a vehicle. He distributed a list of areas that needed funding, including an Emergency Operations Command Center, a motor pool compound, a replacement vehicle, and perhaps a generator. Also distributed was a Budget for FY 2004 that included some equipment. While the bottom line of the Budget request was close to the amount agreed upon at the last County Commission meeting, Mr. McCarthy requested that the money be appropriated to different lines. Mrs. Flanders noted that some of the requests were capital expenses (radio equipment) and had been in the FY 03 Budget. Mr. McCarthy asked the Commissioners to support him in these requests.
Commissioner Sawyer Moved that the requested substitutions be made in the Budget. Commissioner Jason Seconded the Motion. The Motion Passed Unanimously.
Mr. McCarthy stressed that it was difficult for volunteers to operate without a facility and equipment. He said volunteers had put long hours into trying to upgrade the equipment they had, but nothing had come of it and morale had already suffered. Discussion followed about the possibility of using County pickup trucks and about the state of the EOC in the Tisbury School (the lack of shudders on the windows, small chairs that need to be moved, etc.) Mr. McCarthy thought a hurricane, forest fire, or more current types of threats were possibilities that needed to be considered when planning. Commissioner Jason added the possibility of a winter storm that would leave residents without power for a long period of time. Mr. McCarthy mentioned the need to plan for summer tourists left stranded here
without housing in case of a hurricane or other disaster. The Commissioners thanked Mr. McCarthy for his update.
Commissioner Jason brought up the $108,000 that was still contested by the Airport, noting that at a time when there was a need to generate income, these funds would help even if some were held in escrow while the rent issue was resolved. Commissioner Jason asked the other Commissioners to attend the Airport Commission meeting Wednesday, June 11th. Chairman Alley said there were some exemptions to paying rent that were allowed by the FAA.
Break 8:27 – 8:30 PM
Chairman Alley explained the exemptions on land used for public purposes like the Communications Center, parks, etc. He said the Airport could declare that these purposes were for the public good and that they should be exempt from having to pay fair market value of their properties. There was discussion about the rents. Commissioner Jason said the Airport couldn’t ‘have it both ways,’ that if the Airport could have gotten higher rents in 1999 (the $1.25 asking for the County property) then the Airport Commissioners should resign for having failed their fiduciary responsibilities. Commissioner Jason said since the County building dated back to 1999, we should be charged what the rest of the tenants were charged, far less than $1.25.
Commissioner Jason suggested the Airport put a sum, for example $45,000, in escrow to cover the rent issue and release the rest of the $108,000. That money could be used for employee COLAs or other purposes. Commissioner Sawyer agreed.
Chairman Alley asked if the Commissioners wanted to re-examine any parts of the Budget that they approved last week. Commissioner Strauss said he thought every line should be reviewed. He added that he wanted to understand every Department and that he, Commissioner Smith and the new County Manager should be brought up to date on the workings of each Department. He said it would help to know what a Department was meant to do. Was it meant to be a service, to bring in a profit? What was the expectation? Commissioner Sawyer said there were areas that needed focus and ‘desperate needs unmet.’ He mentioned the Health Council’s need for $6200 and asked how in the $4 million Budget that couldn’t be found. Discussion continued. Commissioner Smith suggested
that he, Commissioner Strauss and the new County Manager meet with Treasurer Flanders to find out how Departments were funded.
Chairman Alley brought up the Water Testing Lab and Commissioner Smith mentioned the County Engineer. He noted that private firms do engineer work, but the County was now providing the service for free. Commissioner Sawyer reviewed the concept of the County Engineer stating that the towns individually didn’t have enough volume to hire their own engineers, so the County made the service available at no charge. Commissioner Smith suggested that maybe there should be a charge. Commissioner Sawyer added that perhaps some services, including those of the Rodent Control Officer could be billed at a wholesale rate thus generating some revenue.
Commissioner Strauss reviewed his meeting with Water Testing Lab Director Culbert, noting that the Lab revenue was $35,000 but expenses were $68,000. He thought it important for the Commissioners to understand what the Lab was designed to do. Commissioner Sawyer repeated what he’d said at the last meeting, that there had to be a business plan and marketing focus. He said there was no loyalty in the water business. Commissioner Sawyer said the County couldn’t continue to fund the loss and that the focus had to be on how the Department could pay for itself.
There was discussion about the Ion Chromatography instrument that was purchased last year. Commissioner Sawyer suggested returning the instrument immediately and using the year to evaluate the business. Commissioner Smith suggested leasing another instrument instead.
Robert Culbert distributed a summary of the Water Testing Lab’s history and reviewed it, noting that the Water Testing Lab started at the request of the towns of West Tisbury and Chilmark. He stated that 14,500 samples had been done since the Lab opened. He described the kinds of customers who relied on the Lab and added that he performed 15 tests each week on the five miles of County beach. Mr. Culbert called the troubled instrument ‘a lemon.’
Commissioner Strauss suggested different ways to proceed, adding that two employees were drawing salary from the Lab and perhaps two weren’t needed.
Commissioner Sawyer suggested calling a meeting of Lab clients and seeing how the Lab could better serve them, etc. David Kann, former Wastewater Treatment Facility Director at the Airport, spoke in favor of keeping the Lab, adding he still used it. He stressed the timely fashion in which results were obtained when using the County Lab. Jacque Cage described the Seniors’ Water Testing Lab.
Tad Crawford asked that the Health Council be included as the County, under the guidance of the new County Manager, looked at long term commitments and activities.
Chairman Alley Commissioner Jason Moved that the Commissioners go into Executive Session to discuss contract negotiations with the new County Manager and not reconvene in Open Session. He invited Dianne Powers, Acting County Manager; Laurie Perry, and Marsha Smolev, Executive Assistant to attend.
Roll Call: Commissioner Sawyer, aye; Commissioner Jason, aye; Commissioner Smith, aye, Commissioner Strauss, aye; Commissioner Leland, aye; Chairman Alley, aye.
Break 9:25 while people left.
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO, JR.
CLERK OF THE COURTS