Dukes County Commissions Meeting Minutes
Friday, December 21, 2007
County Administration Building
Call to Order
Chairman Paul Strauss called the County Commissioners meeting to order at 9:40 p.m. Commissioners Lenny Jason, Tristan Israel, Carlene Gatting, John Alley and Les Leland were present.
Also present were Acting County Manager Noreen Mavro-Flanders, Temporary Executive Assistant Erin Leighton, Register of Deeds and Courthouse Building Manager Dianne Powers, Health Council Members Tad Crawford, Cynthia Mitchell and, Sarah Kuh (also Access Program Director), Steve Myrick of MV Times and Julia Rappaport of the Vineyard Gazette.
Acting Manager’s Report
Noreen Mavro Flanders reported:
-----The Youth Task Force applied for a grant from the Attorney General’s Office and was approved in the amount of $90,000. They will be announcing the award in the upcoming week’s papers. The Task Force will be using an office at the Administration Building along with a telephone line.
-----The COLA (3%) checks were processed and passed out to all non-union County employees this past week.
-----The Courthouse roof was affected by last week’s storm. Water is dripping into electrical fixtures. Electricians and plumbers have come in to look at the damage. Dianne Powers, Building Manager, is soliciting estimates for the repairs to the roof. An application has been made to the Department of Capital Asset Management for an emergency waiver for bidding requirements so the matter can be fixed immediately along with a request for funding.
-----The engineering firm that the County uses, Baseline Engineering, Inc, Steve Berlucchi, owner, has given notice that they will not be available after January 4, 2008. He will work to finish projects all ready underway.
Ms. Flanders passed out a budget cover sheet marked #4. She stated that there had been 2 meetings of the FY09 Budget Subcommittee. When she met with Lenny Jason, Tristan Israel and Les Leland the first thought was to fund only mandatory services saving approximately $172,000. The non-mandatory services are Engineer, Health Care Access Program and Rodent Control.
What was reflected on the #4 cover sheet is the second thought of the subcommittee. This uses some of the Unreserved Fund Balance to keep these three programs in the budget with the County funding 40% and asking to the towns for the other 60%. It also includes an increase of $15,000 to the salary of the Count y Manager. This suggestion uses $87,000 of the unreserved balance.
When asking the towns to contribute there would be three separate articles presented to each town meeting for the Engineer, Health Access and Rodent Control programs. The towns would decide whether to keep these programs available to Dukes County residents. Ms. Flanders noted that each commissioner has a copy of draft articles to be presented to the towns as ”placeholders” on the annual town meeting warrants.
Commissioner Gatting asked how the voting process would happen. Commissioner Israel answered that it is a weighted vote. He added that the Commissioners need to be very clear with their approach to the towns to adopt the article formula and hopes these services are picked up by each town. The towns not appropriating money towards these three programs would not have these services available to them.
Ms. Flanders stated that with the Engineering and Rodent Control programs it would be easy to refuse services to residents in towns not appropriating the money. The Health Care Access program will have a harder time to serve people from a town that has paid for the service as opposed to a town that has not appropriated the money for their town’s residents.
Commissioner Gatting believes this is what long term the County government should be doing, going to each town to get money for non-mandated services. She would like to see these programs paid for by the towns with the hopes it succeeds and seeing the towns eventually fully funding these positions. Commissioner Israel adds he would also like to see the County Commission being clear in their position before approaching each town.
Chairman Strauss asked if any other possibilities were discussed at the budget subcommittee meetings. Commissioner Israel answered that the committee looked at keeping two programs, cutting one, or leaving the Health Access Program, employee issues, but these are not to be addressed in the short term. Discussion regarding the use of the Unreserved Fund Balance and how much can and should be used was continued as well as its use for the new roof for the Courthouse building.
Commissioner Alley would like to look at the wording of the Veterans’ Agent Bill. He believes that the towns should be picking up the charges for the Agent. He stated that the commission should consider a general override. Commissioner Israel stated that the model of the Veterans’ Agent approach was controversial; he believes a general override is a harder route to go to get the budget in good standing.
Commissioner Tristan Israel made a Motion to go forward with the three articles to the towns to incorporate 60% of the costs of the three services plus language with the intent to increase that commitment by 10% years following, Commissioner Les Leland seconded the motion.
Tad Crawford believes this is a failure of government. He urges the Commission not to commit the towns to more than this fiscal year. He believes there are other possibilities of income such as selling County-owned property to fund a trust to underwrite the services being discussed. Things needing to be looked into very seriously are the benefit package, the percentage being contributed by employees and government, comparable salaries. Mr. Crawford believes putting the burden on the Town’s is a mistake when there are other options available.
Cynthia Mitchell, Chair of the Health Council, noted her personal observations. Ms. Mitchell would like to put a placeholder in and to keep options open. The public needs to be asked for more money to provide these services. Ms. Flanders asks if Ms. Mitchell believes an article should be prepared for a general override. Ms. Mitchell answered yes.
Commissioner Gatting asked Ms. Flanders about the difference between a general override on the town level versus the warrant for appropriation. Ms. Flanders answered that with a general override the amount voted is added to the assessment permanently with a 2-½% increase each year. She explained that with the warrant articles, the towns vote on the amount each year. . Commissioner Israel does not feel confident the general override would pass.
VOTED: Motion to go forward with the three articles to the towns to incorporate 60% of the costs of the three services plus language with the intent to increase that commitment by 10% years following. Vote passed unanimously. (5-0-0)
Commissioner Jason discussed a general override. He stated that “If we get an override, we get “X” amount of dollars and it then it is increased by 2 ½ %, unfortunately the County’s expenses do not fall into 2 ½ % range, so we are right back where we are now. If we go to the towns and they buy into these programs we are going to, over time, accrue a reserve. “ Commissioner Israel stated “If the override fails the County is back to cutting back again. Commissioner Alley stated that we are a regional government, and we are asking the town’s to assume these services.
Commissioner John Alley makes a Motion to discontinue the engineering program; Commissioner Lenny Jason seconds the motion.
Register of Deeds and Courthouse Building Manager, Dianne Powers, said that there were major leaks in the courthouse roof after last week’s storm. An application has been submitted to the Department of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) to waive advertising requirements for the work needing to be done on the roof. The answer should come in by next week. The roof was replaced in 1996; the manufacturer has since gone out of business, so there are no warranties. She was told that currently there is a thick sheet of ice between the membrane and the wood structure of the building and as that ice melts more seepage will happen. Commissioner Israel asked if the company that has gone out of business will to be contacted, Ms. Powers, they have tried to contact the company in the past and have not been
successful. Ms. Flanders stated that if we do not get a favorable response for funding for DCAM there will be much more of an immediate situation to get our legislators to pass a bill for borrowing for more than 1 year before there is more damage to the building. Ms. Powers noted that if they do not approve the emergency waiver of requirements and funding, that she and Noreen will go forward with the process of bonding to have the roof replaced.
Commissioner Alley made a motion to eliminate the position of county engineer; Commissioner Jason seconds the motion,
Commissioner Israel believes if we do eliminate the position, the towns should have the opportunity to come to the County to keep this position available to them. Commissioner Gatting supports that, but if the towns don’t want the position she would like to see them have the option. Commissioner Leland agrees that the towns should decide if they want the programs.
Commissioner Israel makes a motion to amend Commissioner Alley’s motion to eliminate the county engineer and to increase the full funding of the engineer on the article,
Commissioner Jason seconds the motion. SO VOTED. (5-0-0)
VOTED: on the motion as amended. SO VOTED. (5-0-0).
Commissioner Israel asked how much money eliminating the County Engineer would save. . Ms. Flanders answered it will save approximately $12,500 for the FY09 budget. Commissioner Israel asked if the County/Town split could be changed to 50/50.
Commissioner Israel made a motion to take the money available with the elimination of engineering to change the articles to a 50% 50% (county/town) split. Commissioner Alley seconded the motion.
Commissioner Gatting left the meeting at 10:56 a.m.
Commissioner Leland would like to stay with 40% for the County and 60% from the Towns. Commissioner Israel believes an even split from each party is the better approach.
VOTED: on motion to take the money available with the elimination of engineering to change the articles to a 50% 50% split. Commissioners Strauss, Israel, and Leland – Aye, Commissioner Alley and Jason – No. Vote passed (3-2-0)
Commissioner Alley asked Ms. Flanders if the Commissioners could have a copy of the Veterans’ Agent statute for the next meeting.
Commissioner Israel moved to approve that the draft budget be presented to the County Advisory Board. Commissioner Jason seconded. Commissioners Jason, Leland, Strauss and Israel – Aye. Commissioner Alley – Abstain. Vote passed. (4-0-1)
With no further business, the Commissioners adjourned the meeting at 11:04 a.m.
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts