DUKES COUNTY COMMISSION and
DUKES COUNTY ADVISORY BOARD FOR EXPENDITURES
Special Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at 5:30 p.m.
County Administration Building
Call to Order
Chairman John Alley called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. A quorum was present. Commissioners Leonard Jason, Jr., Robert M. Sawyer, Nelson Smith, Paul Strauss, and Roger Wey were present. County Manager E. Winn Davis and Deborah H. Potter, Executive Assistant were also present.
Other representatives or visitors present included, Abby Brown of MVTV; Art Smadbeck, Edgartown CAB representative, Warren Doty, Chilmark CAB representative; Tristan Israel, Tisbury CAB representative; Michael Dutton, Oak Bluffs CAB representative (at 5:35); John Early, West Tisbury CAB representative (at 6:03); Jim Kinsella of the Vineyard Gazette; Ezra Blair, Martha's Vineyard Times; Noreen Mavro Flanders, Dukes County Treasurer; Dan Flynn, Citizen; Lois Flynn, Citizen, Constance Teixeira, Citizen; Diane Powers, Register of Deeds; Sheriff Michael McCormack, Dukes County Sheriff; Ted Stanley, Citizen; Woody Williams, Citizen; and Sean Flynn, Martha's Vineyard Airport Manager (at 5:40).
Adoption of Minutes:
The minutes of the January 11,2006 and January 17, 2006 meetings were deferred.
Chairman Alley stated that as you may know, Winn has attended meetings on the topic of County Government: what direction, shape or form it should be in. he stated that he has been thinking about it and he planned to introduce a motion tonight, that if approved by the Board, would ultimately let the people decide the fate of County government. He noted his motion will be consistent with Mass General Laws, and if it is approved by the voters, will establish the framework to convene a Charter Study Commission.
He continued by recommending the following resolution:
Whereas the County of Dukes County has been in existence in its present form for more than 10 years, and
Whereas it is appropriate and timely to review the accomplishments and advantages of County Government, and
Whereas the citizens of the County of Dukes County have the right and responsibility to perform this examination and determine the future path of County Government in the Twenty-first (21st) century,
Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the commissioners of the County of Dukes County that, under the authority vested in the County Commissioners by M.G.L. c. 34A section 3, they authorize that the question “Shall a charter study commission be created to study the present governmental structure of the County of Dukes county to consider and make findings concerning the form of government and make recommendation thereon? Be placed on the next state election ballot.
The above motion being made by John Alley was seconded by Robert M. Sawyer and prior to the vote Chairman Alley asked each member of the board to comment on the resolution.
· Robert M. Sawyer stated that there has been a lot of focus on the effectiveness of the county, what it does, what it doesn’t do and what it should be doing. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, through the Charter Commission, set up a process for review. He noted that he thought that every clear thinking person has to recognize that with any body, county or otherwise, periodically should be reviewed, should be analyzed, and should be looked at objectively to consider whether it is meeting its objectives, whether it should be doing thing it is not doing, and consequently he believes this is the most objective and best way to review the county. He stated the
process has been started and this is the way to bring it to real public focus.
· Roger Wey stated that he thought it was a good idea.
· Leonard Jason Jr. stated that he believed that a process that allows the citizens of this county to decide its fate is an excellent process.
· Nelson Smith stated he felt it was a good idea to periodically evaluate how we are doing.
· Paul Strauss stated he believed the same thing and that it was a good idea for a timely review of what the county government is doing.
Nelson Smith stated that his only concern was that as Commissioner’s couldn’t the board just appoint the charter study and Mr. John Alley stated no. Mr. Alley called for the vote and the motion to authorize that the questions “Shall a charter study commission be created to study the present governmental structure of the County of Dukes county to consider and make findings concerning the form of government and make recommendation thereon?” be placed on the next state election ballot was SO VOTED unanimously (6-0-0).
Robert M. Sawyer then requested the floor and stated that he has had several conversations recently regarding a program in the state of Maine where the Penobscott Indian Nation has initiated a drug prescription program. He stated it give focus to something that we are realizing on Martha's Vineyard and in the health care industry that there is a serious problem regarding prescription drugs, the high cost of prescriptions, the controversial issue of why we can not buy the same drugs, at less price, from Canada, and the new changes in Medicare Plan D can lead to some serious, tragic, and costly results, particularly for Seniors. He noted his research on the Penobscot Indian Nation program indicates it has been successful and it has the full and complete support of the Governor of Maine. He added that the Penobscot tribe initiated
the program primarily to provide more cost effective drugs to the members of tribe but it has been expanded considerably and it now extended to all residents of the state of Maine. Mr. Sawyer added that he spoke to Donald Widdiss, the Chairman of the Wampanoag tribe, and Mr. Widdiss is familiar with the program Mr. Sawyer is referring to and he has manifested an interest in that maybe we should consider some cooperative effort where the county representing the community and the Wampanoag Tribe to consider if it is feasible for us to put together some kind of similar program to provide less expensive drugs to the people of the community. Mr. Sawyer stated that he had also talked to Dr. Ilene Klein and she was excited about the notion and wanted to be part of the pursuit. He noted that he had also talked to Congressman Delahunt’s office and if we were to pursue this, they would be as supportive and helpful in any way they can; consequently, because
Mr. Sawyer feels this is a timely issue, he proposed the following motion:
That Dukes County shall immediately establish a Prescription Drug Task Force to consider and determine the feasibility of a community prescription drug program in cooperation with the Wampanoag Tribe. The Task Force will consider what any other communities may have accomplished and particularly the Penobscot Indian nation in the State of Maine. The initial eight member, if they accept their appointments, shall be: Donald Widdiss, Chairman, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah); Dr. Ilene Klein, Associate Commissioner for Health Care; Noreen Mavro Flanders, County of Dukes County Treasurer; One designee from Martha's Vineyard Community Services; Sarah Kuh, Director, Vineyard Health Care Access Program; Cynthia Mitchell, Island Health Inc.; Tad Crawford, DCHC representative; Robert Sawyer, Dukes County Commissioner and E.
Winn Davis shall serve as ex officio member. This task force shall have the authority to add additional members, as it deems appropriate with the consent of the Dukes County Commission. The Task Force is to be charged with reporting back to the County Commission with their recommendation within a reasonable period of time.
Leonard Jason Jr. seconded the motion for discussion. Leonard Jason Jr. asked if this has been run by the DCHC yet and Robert M. Sawyer said that the motion has not been officially run by the council but members of the council participated in the initial conversations and were enthusiastically interested in the notion. Leonard Jason Jr. asked if it might not be more appropriate to run this idea by them first as they are the body that would normally endorse this kind of action. Mr. Jason added that he would like to see the DCHC endorsement of the idea. Mr. Sawyer that stated in the interest of moving this along, he would amend the motion to include subject to the approval of the DCHC. Nelson Smith strongly feels that the group would need a senior citizen representative or someone who is involved in the
programs. He suggested someone from the COA or the Senior Center. Mr. Sawyer noted that the task force is open ended so that the group can add members as deemed approved.
Tristan Israel suggested a meeting to review the Prescription Drug Task Force idea and perhaps include the towns in the discussion. Mr. Robert M. Sawyer noted that the purpose is to get things moving and not to make definitive decisions, but to have an appropriate group of people, to be expanded from the original group, to explore the opportunities that are out there in a timely fashion. Mr. John Alley called for the vote on the motion as stated with the amendment and therefore be it Resolved by the Commissioners of the county of Dukes County the motion was SO VOTED unanimously (6-0-0).
Roger W. Wey brought up a different topic about communications. He noted that he had been away on Friday and them Monday was a holiday so he was unaware of the Special Meeting that occurred on January 17. He would have liked to have attended the meeting and would have also liked a telephone call since it was a special meeting called on such short notice.
Warren Doty noted that he read through Chapter 34 of the State Law and the resolution passed needs to be filed with Secretary of State by the last Tuesday of February. He also noted that at the same election where the question is on the ballot, that the charter commissioner’s names be listed as well so that the voters can voted yes or no on the petition and then to vote for the people to serve on the committee. Therefore, he noted, we need have a process for nominating people and there are fifteen members who would be elected island wide. He asked what kind of process would be required to get individuals to serve on the commission. Mr. Davis noted that there is no nomination process and Mr. Alley advised that each person would have to take out nomination papers individually. Tristan Israel noted that
he believes the dates for submission of nomination papers are the same as for County Commissioners and are available from the town clerk. Mr. Sawyer noted that is would be wise for the County to publish those dates. Mr. Doty also noted that the budget for the Charter Commission was either a percentage of the county budget or $35,000 and that it would seem to be an appropriate amount of money, in our case, to allow the group to function. Robert M. Sawyer noted that the $35,000 is a ceiling and it is a factor of the county budget equal to one-tenth of one percent and the amount could actually be less. He also noted that Barnstable County went through this same process last fall and they found it to be productive and they plan to do it every five years or so.
Mr. Davis reminded the County Advisory Board members that last July when the FY06 budget was approved, he stated that the County promised to advance the FY07 budget process to get more interaction between the two groups. Mr. Davis noted that a draft budget was sent out earlier, and is not a recommended or in balance document, to document several important elements that will need to be discussed. He stated he was going to discuss the four major elements to identify where the problems are and to seek some feedback from the County Advisory Board and the Commissioners so that the budget can be presented in a timely manner and balanced.
Mr. Davis reported that normally the County tries to do a zero increase budget except for those items that are mandatory; however, the four issues where there are significant increases for the next year’s budget include:
· Health Care Access: Mr. Davis noted that in conversations with representatives and at the town meetings that everyone has considered the VHCAP significant. The problem with the VHCAP is not that we are creating new programs but rather the grant money funding programs and personnel is drying up; therefore, you are seeing a shifting of the costs to the county to support these personnel. He noted that there are increases in administrative costs and assistant’s cost which are not pay increases but a shift of the expense from the grants to the county. Additionally, he noted, the repair of office equipment, in-state travel, and office supplies have also
been shifted over to the County. Mr. Davis added this needs to be focused on because the only other alternative is to reduce staff or reduce services. He noted that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield grants have supported the efforts in the past but those grants are no longer available. Tristan Israel noted that even with the increase in VHCAP there were other areas that could be cut to support the added expenses. He also added what was the difference between the first draft and the second draft. Mr. Davis responded to file the first draft, as there is a dramatic difference in that the numbers for the CCMHG expenses for medical insurance are far below what our predictions were. Noreen Mavro Flanders stated that the first budget allowed for a 15% increase but the CCMHG used its six million dollar surplus to subsidize the rates for this year.
· Engineering Costs: Mr. Davis noted that the County contracted Baseline Engineering to provide engineering services some time ago and as each year goes by, the company has decreased the number of hours provided instead of raising rates, to keep costs down which has not been a problem until recently. The towns of Tisbury and Edgartown recently contacted Mr. Davis, he stated, to discuss the requirements of TIP program money available from the State. Currently, he noted, that the engineer is being used in a variety of other non-TIP issues, and the towns wanting to take advantage of TIP are having a difficult time scheduling the engineer’s time because the
County is running out of hours. Therefore, he stated, the proposal recommends returning the engineering program back to the 1600 hours per year with the anticipation of increasing it another 200 hours in FY2008 so that there are more hours available to accommodate the TIP requests from the towns. He noted that 80% of the engineer hours are allocated to each town on a weighted basis, like the assessments, and the remaining 20% is dedicated to projects specific to the County, such as the Sheriff’s Building, or are not individually town orientated, such as the Drawbridge. Mr. Davis that the services of the engineer are always in demand and each year we run out of time; therefore, we need to either come up with more time or have the towns go outside the assessment process for additional services. Mr. Doty asked about an increase related to the hiring of a draftsman. Mr. Davis noted that there was the possibility of hiring a draftsman part-time who
could do the CAD operation, which is the Computerized Assisted Drawing program, to free up the engineer’s time. Mr. Doty noted that this is not part of restoring the original hours and Mr. Davis advised no that this would be an additional option.
Tristan Israel asked if the County periodically goes out to bid on this service and Mr. Davis noted that we do not have to bid for professional consultations but this would be the year to bid for this service. Mr. Israel noted that the CAD assistant element could be included in the bid process. Mr. Davis added that the other option is for the towns to independently contract with Baseline for the extra services. Leonard Jason Jr. noted that we did the county engineer at the request of the highway services so why don’t we go back to the old hours and allocate this time to TIPS and if there is time left over, the engineer can do other projects. Mr. Davis noted that the original purpose of the engineer was for general engineering not specific or exclusive to TIPS. Nelson Smith asked what is
the current hourly charge for the engineer’s time and Mr. Davis noted it was about $55.00 per hour.
Tristan Israel asked about the new draftsman’s position and Mr. Davis replied the position would be contracted not a county position. He also stated that the county engineer was a part of the bridge committee and it was an expensive proposition having him there. Mr. Israel noted that his idea was that TIPS was supposed to be an important part of the service and everything else was supposed to be worked around that. Mr. Davis said that there is a question of whether it is a good allocation of the engineer’s time to have him sit on and chair a committee. Mr. Davis noted he was looking for feedback from the towns on where they would like it to go. Mr. Smadbeck noted that if there is a short-term priority, say on TIPS, to reallocate time instead of increasing the budget. We do ask
the towns each year how they think the time would be best used. Leonard Jason Jr. said that if we are out of balance, we could hold the line without increasing the budget but still provide the same service to the towns. Mr. Davis added that if the budget was not increased, the towns themselves could contract for additional services if needed.
Mr. Doty noted asked about the increases in the various health insurance costs and Noreen Mavro Flanders noted that each department is different due to the plans that each member within that department participates in. Mr. Doty also noted that the Managers recommend amount for health care was lower that the Department requests and was that a result of reductions in benefits. Noreen Mavro Flanders stated no the difference is a result of the Department Heads submitting their budget requests before the health care rates were known.
· Treasurer’s Department: Mr. Davis advised that the Treasurer’s department has some significant requests that are important. He noted that one issue is that the Treasurer wants to come into compliance with State law as it pertains to archiving. He stated that we do not have sufficient, adequate, or compliant archival space here and that we have to deal with this issue that in this budget comes to $60,000. Since the budget was originally proposed, we have become aware of the fact that Edgartown is building a building with some archive capacity and we are going to ask them if there may be room for us in the new building or some way to buy items at
less cost. Mr. Davis also noted that since that time, he has been contacted by the State’s Archive Department and they will be here tomorrow to examine the facilities that we have. He added that the State has advised us that the modular units do not necessarily comply with State Law, as the engineer’s have not submitted the specifications for the approval of the units and they have advised using them will be at our own risk, as they have not approved any brand or company. Leonard Jason Jr. asked what he meant by at our own risk. Mr. Davis explained that if we use a modular system that does not comply with State approval we could be subject to action. Tristan Israel noted then that the recommended amount might not be correct and asked why weren’t we planning for this earlier and can this be spread out over a few years. Leonard Jason Jr. asked what Tisbury does for archive storage and Tristan Israel noted that it is a problem for
them as well. The idea of a central archive was discussed with both Mr. Jason and Mr. Israel commenting that is was a good idea.
Mr. Davis noted the second element of the treasurer’s request is for a software upgrade as the current system is DOS based and will no longer be supported. Noreen Mavro Flanders noted that she will need to upgrade to a Windows based system soon; however, it could be spread out over a few years but no longer than 4 or even possibly structured as a lease. She stated it was necessary to show how important the issue was.
· COLA: Mr. Davis noted that the towns are good at giving COLA’s to their employees with the current COLA recommended in Edgartown of 4.2. He stated that the county does not give the COLA like the towns and in the past three fiscal years; there has been only one COLA increase of 1.5%. He advised that the cost for a 1% COLA increase is $25,000 and it is not included in the draft budget. Mr. Davis stated that he would like to get on the same program as the towns and provide COLA’s on a regular basis. Mr. Doty noted that there is an increase in salary expenses. Mr. Davis advised that these are step increases within grade and that
after ten years, if you have done your job well, you will be at the top of the scale. Tristan Israel noted that the Tisbury personnel department evaluates a variety of factors before making recommendations. Mr. Davis stated he was thinking of using an average of the town’s COLA increases to determine what our COLA would be. Robert M. Sawyer noted that creating a standard COLA process that could be used by all towns might be a good idea. Mike Dutton didn’t think that standardized COLA’s might not be good as far as a bargaining tool. Mr. Sawyer stated that COLA shouldn’t be used as a bargaining tool. Tristan Israel stated that it might be wise because if one large department gives a large increase it impacts the whole island. Warren Doty noted that a COLA is a good idea but worried about parity and stated that County employees get a better deal than COLA on health insurance with the County paying 90% whereas towns pay
only 75%. Mr. Davis noted that like positions within the town and county are not at the same base salary.
Mr. Davis noted that the next meeting is February 22nd at 5:30 and he hopes to have the budget in balance. Mr. Doty stated that there have been a lot of re-evaluations of property recently and asked how often the reassessments to the towns have change. Mr. Davis stated that they are re-adjusted every two years and the assessment values are given to the County by the State. Mr. Davis reiterated that the goal tonight was not to try to reach an agreement but to get the topics out for discussion and seek input. Noreen Mavro Flanders stated that if we are going to be presenting a balanced budget, we need more discussion with the DCC and CAB on where to make the budget balanced as there have been numerous times where a budget has been presented balanced but then not approved because of a lack of
discussion. She said she needs input now and not after putting a lot of work into it that will be ignored. Tristan Israel stated that at some point the CAB should meet and he added that he hasn’t seen the full picture. Noreen Mavro Flanders asked what he didn’t have. Art Smadbeck added that the VHCAP has been successful and it should be funded, on engineering it may need to be level funded for this year and then set a priority for TIPS, possibly postpone archive pending community effort, and leasing software offer options for discussion.
Mr. Davis noted that the DCC meets next week anyway, so they could come back if they wanted to help set some priorities. The CAB members agreed to come back next week and Mr. Davis stated that the meeting would be posted.
Mr. Warren Doty noted that from Chilmark’s point of view level funding of the engineering department would be fine. He also noted that in some years there has been funding from unreserved funds and is that available now. Mr. Davis noted that the unreserved fund is not available pending the resolution of the lawsuit.
Tristan Israel noted that we would need the COLA included the budget so that it can be planned for. Mike Dutton noted that he agreed that the VHCAP would like to see it continued but he doesn’t like to see programs that are grant funded initially; but then get stuck covering the expenses and looking like the bad guy if it is not approved. He added that engineering costs could be level funded and the other options for archiving and software need to be looked at. He also added that the COLA in Edgartown is 4.2% and other towns are 4% so that is something to consider.
Mr. Doty asked what was the amount in the unreserved fund and Noreen Mavro Flanders stated that it is about $150,000. Mr. Davis advised that we try to keep it stable at $90,000 so if the funds were available there would be about $60,000 available. Mr. Nelson Smith stated he would like to see figures of cost of benefits in relation to our salaries so that were can compare the figures to the towns.
Tristan Israel noted that he was at the Surfcasters Benefit and noted that the TTOR are in negotiation to manage the beach and wondered if the county would be getting any income from that. Mr. Davis advised the group that revenues for the Beach are down as a result of the extended piping plover-breeding season. Additionally, he noted, the county had one resignation in May of the Beach manager and another in December and the decision not to replace either position caused that department’s figures drop dramatically. Mr. Davis noted that the County is in discussion with the Trustees of Reservations to manage the beach. According to Mr. Davis the TTOR will keep the revenue to cover expenses and once the revenue exceeds the expenses, there will be a split of the net revenue between the County and
the TTOR. Mr. Davis also noted that the TTOR have also agreed to honor the county resident fee structure for the beach sticker. He also advised that they are considering instituting a “day” pass for the beach to increase revenue. Mr. Davis said that the benefits of the partnership are that it keeps costs down, the county will eventually get revenue, and the operation will be run more environmentally sound. Mr. Israel asked about the duration of the partnership agreement and Mr. Davis noted it was on an annual basis and can be terminated with 30 days notice.
Mr. Dutton asked about the Cape and Islands license plate revenue and is that money still required to go towards economical development. Mr. Davis stated yes and it is spent in the past through the Beach Department which we still have as the Sheriff is still responsible for the other beaches, in advertising, and in the engineer. Noreen Mavro Flanders noted that although the county continues to manage State Beach, we have not received any money from the state in the past two years. Mr. Davis noted that his discussion with the State indicated that they would try to resume those grants.
Tristan Israel asked if the Airport’s budget was included and Mr. Davis stated it was forthcoming but not an operational issue from the County’s standpoint. Mr. Smadbeck inquired about the Health and Environment budget where revenue has decreased but miscellaneous technical services has increased 10 fold from 200 to 2000; therefore, there are things within the budget that can be reexamined to adjust and balance the budget. Tristan Israel asked about the $900 expense for the Veterans’ Agent. Mr. Davis noted the figure was just for the salary increase.
John Alley asked for and Robert Sawyer made a motion to adjourn at 6:51 and SO VOTED (6-0-0).
· The next County/Town Meeting is with the Edgartown Selectmen on Monday, February 6, 2006 at the Edgartown Town Hall.
· The SSA meets Tuesday, February 7, 2006 in Woods Hole
· The next Dukes County Commissioners Regular Business Meeting is Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 5 p.m. at the Administration Building
· The Dukes County Health Council meets Thursday, February 23, 2006 at 7:30 a.m. at the West Tisbury Public Safety Building
· The Dukes County Regional Housing Authority meets TBD at the DCRHA building, State Road, Vineyard Haven.
· The Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission meets Wednesday, March 15, 2006 5 p.m. at the General Aviation Building
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts