Dukes County Commission Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
County Administration Building
Call to Order
Chairman Leslie Leland called the County Commissioner’s meeting to order at 5:05 p.m. Commissioners Tristan Israel, John Alley, Leonard Jason, Jr., Melinda Loberg and Carlene Gatting were present.
Also in attendance were County Manager Russell Smith, Executive Assistant Martina Thornton, Sarah Kuh – Director of Health Care Access Program, Peter Hefler – Dukes County representative to the Cape Light Compact, Mark Hanover – Dukes County representative to SSA, Tad Crawford – member of the Charter Study Commission and Dukes County Health Council, Cynthia Mitchell – Executive Director of Island Health, Inc., Sally Lebedoff and Joanie Ames of MVTV.
The Minutes of September 10, 2008 meeting were put off for approval until next meeting.
County Manager’s Report
· State Beach Planting – From the grant money we received to manage the State Beach, we ordered 325 plants in the spring, but the delivery would be late and we did not want to plant them before the summer heat, so we kept the plants at the nursery for the summer. Carlos Montoya, island expert on native plants, recommended we cut off the leaves before planting. That was done and we planted all on Saturday along the road with the help of the Sheriff’s office and the community service participants. We plated 175 Rosa Ragosas and 150 Beach Plums. The Oak Bluffs Fire Department watered it for us afterwards.
· Eastville Beach – We had a meeting with Department of Fisheries Access Board, Commissioners Israel and Gatting were there. Russell presented a plan that shows the Eastville Beach and where the town line is. They agreed that the area by the bridge and the big portion of the beach would not be fit as it is used for swimming and picnicking, which would be not allowed if transformed to the fishing access area. But the property by the jetty would be appropriate and the department would clean it up, fix the parking and put some fencing down where only the fishermen would have access to go fishing in the channel. The area is mostly on Tisbury property, Tristan added that it is rocky and is
not used for swimming. We will be getting back a plan from Mr. Cameron from the State Dept. with proposal for the Oak Bluffs and Tisbury Conservation Commissions to look at.
Tristan added that the nap weed removal on October 4th was called off. Mr. Woodruff suggested that we need to know more about it before we do the work. We do not want to shake the seeds around and it also has long roots. They are trying to get more information from Tom Simmons from the MV Commission who has experience with it, as the nap weed is very invasive and we need to come up with a good solution for its removal.
Lenny asked, if the whole beach will be part of the agreement. Russell answered no, it is only the lot by the jetty, which is mostly Tisbury and a little piece of Oak Bluffs property. Lenny asked if there wasn’t in the proposed agreement that the Commissioners reserve the right to be the only authority to grant a special permit for that parcel. Russell answered that he believes that’s true. Carlene commented that we couldn’t participate in any derby, tournament, etc. if on their facility, they don’t want to be the location of the way in and where the derby originates from. Only “car top” boats, which is a canoe or kayak, can be launched from there, no boats from a trailer. Tristan added that Tisbury only has bylaw regarding commercial watercraft, not for personal use. Carlene
added that the agreement would be signed by all three parties – Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and the County and Mr. Dutton from Oak Bluffs was at the meeting too. Carlene added that we could use some repairs and additional fencing at the rest of the area that the Access Board can not be a part off, but they suggested to call the Division of Conservation Resources , which is another state agency, but it is hard to get calls back. Tristan added that there needs to be some kind of natural management of the erosion on the Oak Bluffs side of the beach, maybe we could access some CPC funds and we explore other options too. Lenny stated that it would be great if they could maintain the access road too, but thinks we had a problem with the Conservation Commission regarding this before. Tristan stated that we would have to include the Tisbury and Oak Bluffs Conservation Commission in this project anyway.
· Legislative Recommendations
Russell presented recommended changes to the MGL Chapter 34A regarding the indefinite term to be changed to serves at the pleasure of the board, residency requirement after probationary period and the position being full or part time and the salary not being decreased. Russell explained that if the position changes from full to part time, the salary would be prorated. We did not share this proposal with the house counsel yet, we can work on it, we have time. Carlene raised question if the part that “salary can not be lowered” must be there? Les noted that this was in the original Charter. Russell answered that it is part of the current MGL and we are trying not to change the MGL more then necessary, but since we are the only one using the manager type of county government, we could
propose the change without it. Tristan said that in 10 years from now it could be read differently and it would be better to spell it out and maybe we could make provision only for Dukes County. See if the house counsel David Nimitz will recommend we go via changes of the law for everybody or just get an exception for Dukes County.
Carlene asked if we could circulate the proposal to the Charter Study Commission members for comments before we adopt it. We will e-mail it to them and ask them to come to the next meeting to tell us if they have any issues.
· Russell presented Thank you letter to Paul Strauss for his service on the Dukes County Commission. Tristan read the letter aloud.
Tristan/Carlene moved to adopt the letter. All in favor.
Russell asked that all the Commissioners to sign the original letter.
4. Chairman’s Report.
Les read a letter from the Treasurer in response to concerns regarding non-responsiveness of Powers & Sullivan regarding the Audit Report requested by the MV Airport Commission last year and unwillingness to use this firm for audit for fiscal year 2008.
They will be here next Monday meeting with the Airport Manager and the Treasurer to resolve this matter. Carlene commented that it was brought to her attention and it is unacceptable to receive audit letter for fiscal year ending on June 30, 2007 in summer 2008, when we are now in fiscal year 2009. She could not understand why we would continue to use this company if they will not do immediate return of the audit for FY08. Tristan commented that the Treasurers input is very important in this case. Since the audit is already scheduled for FY08 we should let them do it, but he wants to do RFP for next year so they do not take for granted that we do business with them. Carlene asked John if the Commissioners could have a report from the Airport Commission regarding this at the next meeting.
John stated that they are behind the curve, they just got the 2007 letter that stated that there are some matter that are unresolved, and they cannot get a hold of the auditors to find out how to resolve it. Tristan raised a question, what priority are we to them. Les commented that there were times that they were coming down and Noreen was not ready for them as she was behind doing several jobs at that time. She also recommended that we do RFP in the future. John commented that the Airport receives federal funds and it is making it harder for the Airport to receive those funds in the future if the audit is not done. Carlene is not willing to go ahead with Powers & Sullivan for FY 2008 and get RFP going for FY08. Les suggests that since they will be here next week, we can ask them questions.
Melinda asked how long have we being using them for audits? Lenny answered -12 years. Melinda asked how have they been so far? Lenny answered fine; except for one time they made a big mistake. Melinda asked if there was any other communication regarding the FY2007 audit or if the letter we received a couple of weeks ago was the first we were aware that it was not done. Carlene answered that there has been communication during the year but the letter dated August 14 we received is still a draft of the FY2007 audit. Tristan asked if we could do RFP for auditor for next year as well as for legal counsel.
Russell presented to all the Chapter 89 of the Acts of 1995, which is an act authorizing the County Commissioners of the County of Dukes County to borrow money to renovate a certain court house. According to this Act the County is able to spend up to $100,000 for renovation of the Court building. Lenny asked if this is forever or if it is only to fix the roof. Russell answered that it seems to be forever. Tristan asked if we have the money to do it? Russell answered that it only means we can spend the money.
5. Subcommittee Reports.
· Marc Hanover – Steamship Authority representative
Preliminary budget presented at last week’s meeting with a presumption that oil stays at $110 per barrel for next year there will be no fee increase. The SSA uses about 3 million gallons a year. He is leaning toward insuring the price at $100-110/barrell and locking it in for a year, which is not cheap but it would ensure that the budget stays more stable and the price will not go up. Tristan asked about what % is the cost of the insurance. Marc answered that it is like an insurance policy, you buying futures. There is no definitive price on this yet. Marc is going to a conference in early November where there will be actual products available. We will pay premium percentage and if the price goes down, we will be loosing money. Russell commented that it is scary to think that the
insurance companies will be vested in what happens to the price of oil on national level. Marc said he would come back to the Commissioners before any decision on this is made.
Traffic this year was up 3.5% -44,000 passengers. First two weeks in September we are up 17%, Nantucket is up 23% since last year. They are working on efficiency and are cutting Friday and Saturday night boats leaving from Vineyard Haven at 9.30pm (there will still be a 9.30pm going to the island) and also cutting Saturday and Sunday 6am boats out of Woods Hole on the winter schedule. Looking to run 10,000 fewer miles with all the changes. Regarding the black smoke issue; there is nothing wrong with the Island Home. The captains do what they did before - controlled crash into the dock, which is unnecessary with the new boat and they are starting to doing it the right way so you don’t even know that you left the harbor. They are also looking to cut the Oak Bluffs terminal to close at 3pm
in the winter (one shift, instead shift and half when they have to pay the people double shift.) Marc met with 3 down island town clerks to discuss the requirements to be on a street list in order to qualify for the excursion rate. It is apparently a big issue on Nantucket. It would not add work to the steamship; they will get the street list from the town clerks and instead of signing an affidavit they would have to be on the street list. It was approved. If you are not on the list, you will have to go to town clerk and prove that you are resident on Martha’s Vineyard with your license to be added. The towns get $1100 for each person on the street list from the federal government, and they believe that there is a bigger population than what they have on the street list currently. The street list created through local census on the 1st of the year. Head start program – residents can get 5 reservations ahead of time and later transfer it to their renters with a cut off
date May 15. There were complaints that this it too early, so now you can transfer those 5 reservations up to 30 days out or turn it in. We have 140 preferred spaces per day for islanders and they are not being utilized. We changed it that so you can get it 7 to 4 days out, after that they go into the general pool and they go back 1 day ahead until noon that day, after that they go back to the general pool. With the waiting list and reservations being on line, it is much more efficient now. At the end of the year they will review how much of these spaces are being utilized and if it is 110 on average, maybe we should lower the number to 120 a day. Carlene asked if it is 140 spaces year round? Marc answered yes.
The management reached an agreement with the MEMA engineers, which is the proposal presented by the management 2 years ago. There were some personnel changes and it seemed to help. Bob Marshal from Falmouth is up for reappointment and Marc hopes he gets reappointed, as he is very knowledgeable in finance and other areas. New Bedford fast ferry had a bad summer and it would not surprise Marc if they terminate the service for the winter. They already downsized to 2 boats for the winter. They started the season with $5000 loss. They bring freight also. It is expensive round trip. Oak Bluffs terminal construction will continue right after Columbus Day. Fair Haven is also continuing to do major work there. They are dry docking everything. The engineer got variance to put 4’x4’ objects in the
CAT cell instead of 2’x2’ (big hole in the middle of the harbor) and they also got permission to put contaminants that they are dredging out.
Lastly Marc commented on the upcoming election for State Representative. The Democratic candidate Mr. Larkosh is strongly supported by MEMA and a bill that lots of island selectmen including this Board are opposing that the Steamship Authority be taken over by the State. He also supports a bill that would force the SSA to use binding arbitration. This is Marc’s big concern as lots of people went to Boston and spoke against those bills and the selection of a new State Representative is very important for the future of these bills. Carlene asked if there are any benefits to SSA being run by the State other then benefits to the union workers. Marc answered that she should ask the MBTA and Mass Turnpike authority that are run by the State. Tristan commented that people from off island
who come here do not care about the preferred for islanders, they do not understand that the steamship is our lifeline and we would loose all representation if it was run by the State. Marc commented that none of these bills was filed by island people. Russell commended that up until 1960 the state legislature funded the SSA and covered the deficits, in1960 they discontinued the New Bedford run being unprofitable. They gave the two islands and Falmouth control over the SSA with the conditions that “you run it and you cover the cost and if in deficit you cover it by property taxes from the islands”; they do not cover any losses. That is why we have control over it. The model has worked for almost 50 years now. Marc commented that the Steamship Authority is the only ferry system in the United States that is not publicly funded. The SSA has entered into a contract with Washington Ferry System. They would like to build 2-3 new boats – exact copies of Island Home. The SSA will receive
$540,000 for the use of the plans for the two boats and another approx. $200,000, if they build a third boat. The plans for Island Home cost initially over $1,000,000. Lenny asked if the SSA could put together a book of rules for the customers to understand what the rules are. Marc answered that there is a book and it is also available on-line.
· Peter Hefler – Cape Light Compact representative
History: Created in 1997 by the Barnstable and Dukes Counties. Updated in 1999. It was driven by the major changes that had been occurring in the energy industry, i.e. the spin off power companies and the splitting of responsibility for the generation of power transmission of that power and distribution of that power. You notice that on your NSTAR bill.
The Cape Light Compact laid out set of goals that have formed the basic mission of the compact. 1.To make sure that all consumers are treated in a fair manner as relates to energy concerns. 2. To acquire the best market rates for electricity supply and transportation and distribution of that energy. 3. To provide equal sharing of economic savings based on current electric rates and/or cost-of service ratemaking approved by the necessary state agencies. 4. To provide and enhance consumer protection and options for service under contract provisions and allow those consumers who do not wish to take part the ability to opt out of a program. 5. To improve quality of service and make that service reliable. 6. To encourage environmental protection in the area of electrical generation and
distribution. 7. To utilize and encourage the use of renewable energy development to the extent practical through contract provisions, demo projects etc. 8. To utilize and encourage demand side management and other forms of energy efficiency through contract provisions and state mandates system benefit changes for renewable energy (you can see the wind turbine up at the high school). 9. To advance specific community goals that may be selected from time to time such as placement of wires underground. 10. To provide full public accountability to consumers. 11. To utilize municipal and other powers and authorities that will constitute basic consumer protection to achieve these goals. The programs the CLC offers are: 1. Home Energy Audits (through the Rise Corp.), it becomes very popular, 2. Energy Star qualified lighting, 3. Energy Star labeled appliances (if you switching from old appliance you can receive a rebate $50-150), 4. Energy Star new homes, 5. Energy efficiency
programs for lower income customers, 6. Commercial and industrial retrofitting. 7. Commercial and industrial new constructions as relates to energy efficiency 8. Small business enhanced incentives for creation of better energy policy. 9. Cape light Compact Green – will match 50 –100% of the electricity you use with renewable energy sources (photo volt tanks, photocells, solar cells, wind energy).
The CLC position on the Nantucket wind farm is that they will not take a stand on projects that are funded through private sources.
Peter then offered explanation of the letter the Commissioners get every month from CLC that represents the summary for all 6 island’ towns. Each town also gets a letter that only reflects what is happening in each town. For example Tisbury spent 54% of their energy budget in July (based on calendar year), which is not bad. There are 23 towns in the program and the goal is to get the word out about all the programs and benefits the CLC can to for you.
This Saturday the 27th of September there is the Light Bulb Turn-In Event at the Local Harvest Festival. You can bring your incandescent light bulbs to recycle and get rebates toward the purchase of a new Energy Star qualified light bulbs. Peter’s wife started campaign 3 years ago and now 90% of our lighthouses have fluorescent lighting, which makes a difference on our electric bill. Tristan thanked Peter for the presentation and asked about the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative. Peter answered that that was organized in 2007 and there are 3 initial members – CLC, Barnstable county and Town of Barnstable. Peter thinks there are no towns on the island that signed up. Their goal is to develop renewable energy projects. Financing large scale renewable energy projects will
not burden the towns debt capacity, lower cost financing, financial backing with renewable energy trust funds would be the bonuses for this program. Regional benefits would be professional and technical expertise in the field, central contracting for purchasing, operation and maintenance and general administration. Tristan commented that in 2006 the rules changed and municipalities can become their own utility suppliers, which started this new initiative. Tristan would like to know, what could the Commissioners do to get more involved in this program. There are numerous alternative energy projects in preliminary stages all over the island and does the county want to take part in any regional coordination of this as facility to the towns being their own utility. Tristan asked Peter on behalf of the Commissioner if he could explore that area and report to them what the advantage would be and how can we participate. Peter offered to bring their executive director Margaret Downy to
speak to the Commissioners. Melinda added that the Island Plan might come up with some recommendation in this topic as they do have a sub-committee for the renewable energy matters. Tristan suggested that the Commissioners could introduce this at the All-island Selectmen’s meeting in October. Tad Crawford added that at the Local Harvest Festival this Saturday at 11am there will be a discussion led by the executive director of the Vineyard Energy Project and the topic would be if there is an opportunity to create at the level of the island unified efforts to power generation and Margaret Downy is going to be there.
· Sarah Kuh – Vineyard Health Care Access Program
The program started in 1999. In 2006 new law passed that everybody in Massachusetts must have health insurance. Since then we are very busy and we serve as community-based agency that helps people get affordable health insurance. In FY 2008 we had 7,178 client contacts, 2524 people were approved and enrolled in Mass Health (Medicaid), Commonwealth Care (new affordable insurance), Health Safety Net (Pre-care) and related programs. We provided prescription assistance to 250 people. The Access Program provided enrollment services to 15% of all island residents. Lots of time is spent on following up on the applications to make sure that they are not only approved, but that they call to enroll and send a check. Other types of services we provide are working with people that have medical debt, coordinating health care, making appointments,
providing emergency cost program – especially for emergency medical transportation or medication, that we fundraise funds for from Rotary Club and other donors. We do not pay the whole price, but we help pay for part of it and it is a great help to people. And lastly it is the assistance, information and referrals to the food voucher program, Medicare part D for seniors, food stamps and other. Sarah presented the Annual report for FY2008, which also describes other programs that the VHCAP is involved in like Vineyard Smiles Program, which brings dental services to kids in the schools, Specialty Network for the uninsured, which allows people without health insurance to see specialist for an affordable price or in some instances for free. Lenny asked if the schools could get involved in the Vineyard Smiles program, as they were involved in dental care in the past. Sarah answered that she can look into it as they have good working relationship with the superintendents. They are
funding it right now from the grant money and will have to look for future funding anyway. Last year 400 children participated. It’s funded through reimbursement from Mass Health to the dentist. People with Mass Health had to go off island because no dentist on the island accepts Mass Health. You have to pay full price if you are not part of the Mass Health. The VHCAP also does oral health education in the classrooms. Carlene suggested that if one dentist could service all the schools it could be cost effective. Sarah adds that he would be extremely busy.
Sustainability planning: County is now funding 1/3 of their budget and 2/3 come from grants and contributions. Since the grants are not a sure thing we created a Sustainability Committee to come up with a plan how to stabilize the funding for the program. Tad Crawford and Cynthia Mitchell from the Committee were in the audience. We looked in other similar programs in other parts of the state how they fund their programs and the main recommendation was to look to our local heath care providers who benefit from the fact that people get insurance. We had several meetings with the providers about possible sharing the funding of the program with the county, the towns and the grant makers. As a result Island Heath Care, Inc. agreed to participate. The other two providers that we met with, namely MV Hospital and Community Services declined to
Cynthia Mitchell commented that the VHCAP does great job and thanks to the program they have 180 Medicare enrollees and close to 500 people who are newly enrolled in the affordable state health insurance. It is a great service for community and for their business. VHCAP makes sure that the gaps of not having insurance are minimal and that ensures that they as health care providers get paid. Carlene and Tristan asked why the hospital and the community services do not want to support the program? Tad Crawford answered that the hospital made an argument that they provide the service themselves, but Tad believes that it involves a degree of expertise and it does not make sense to duplicate the service on the island, plus he does not believe that they provide the same lever of service as the VHCAP and there is plenty of evidence to support this
argument, but it is hard to have the conversation. Sarah stated that the County had a grant through the state for providing these services, which is an essential part of making the health care reform successful, since the health insurance enrollment process is complicated and people loose coverage and they do not know why and how to get it back. County held the state grant, which was $60,000 (50 hours of staff work) but it was removed this year because of the state budget situation and we do not know if it will come back. This year the County was able to give us about half what it was giving us in previous years and all the 6 towns agreed in the spring to fill in the county’s budget shortfall for the FY2009. Sarah’s plan for FY2010 will be presented at the all-island selectmen’s meeting to share more of the cost of the program. Tristan stated that part of the agreement last year was that the county will come back next year asking for 60%, and the following year for 70% and so
on, until the towns take the whole share of the county funding over. Sarah pointed out that the budget is $280,000 to $300,000 for this year, most of which represents the salaries. They are fortunate to have the building and not have to pay rent there, which is a significant contribution. The municipal share right now is about $90,000 which is only a 1/3 of the budget and Sarah would like to ask at the all island selectmen’s meeting that the municipal portion of the funding be increased to stabilize the budget and not to be so dependant on the grants as the grant that is not available is $60,000, which is 1/3 of the last years budget. Right now we have only half of what we need to fund the program. We applied for some grants and we do not know if we get it or not. We are reapplying for a grant that will be ending in December for similar amount of money. If we do not get it, we will have to lay people off and cut services. We will not know for several weeks if we get the grants or
not. Tristan suggested that the County should approach the MV Hospital and Community Services who do get the benefits of people being enrolled in health insurance through the Health Care Access and consider supporting the program. Sarah commented that the hospital financials are complicated and they might argue that it is not so obvious that they benefit from it. Carlene added that it is also the follow up on people that were discharged from the hospital. Sarah called it community health benefit. Russell stated that as County department Sarah plans to attend the all-island selectmen’s meeting and will be asking the towns for more funding and she wants to make the Commissioners aware of it. Tristan suggested that some Commissioners should go in person to Hospital and Community Services to reconsider, namely Lenny and Melinda.
Carlene stated that the Commissioners still need to address the rest of the administrative recommendations that were not addressed yet.
Tristan /John moved to adjourn the meeting.So voted. All in favor.7:10pm
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts