Dukes County Commission Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
County Administration Building
Call to Order
Chairman Leslie Leland called the County Commissioner’s meeting to order at 5:05p.m. Commissioners Roger Wey, 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, County Treasurer Noreen Mavro-Flanders, Assistant County Treasurer Carol Grant, Sarah Kuh of Vineyard Health Care Access, and Jim Osmundsen of MVTV.
Minutes of October 22, 2008 will be voted on at the next meeting.
Chairman’s Report – Les Leland
Les congratulated Melinda Loberg for the Spirit of the Vineyard Award.
Joseph Sollitto asked the Commissioners to certify the election results for the County Treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders. There were three documents to be signed – the letter from the Secretary of State, the Vote and the Treasurer’s Commission. She will be sworn in the first Wednesday in January 2009 (at the County Commissioners’ meeting). Joe reported that that morning the elections commission for the County, which is the Register of Probate, Judge of the Probate Court and the Clerk of the Courts, certified the vote as to the three County Commissioners. Joe also asked the Commissioners to certify the vote for the members to the MV Commission. The re-elected Commissioners agreed that they would be sworn in at the fist County Commissioners’ meeting in January.
Appointment to MV Commission
Les asked the Commissioners to make an Appointment to MV Commission. Carlene Gatting was serving the unexpired term of Paul Strauss.
Roger/ Tristan moved to appoint Carlene Gatting to MV Commission. All in favor.
Appointment to the Dukes County Retirement Board
Carlene noted that the Commissioners adopted the Charter Study Commission recommendation that no County Commissioner would be appointed to a board that is compensating its members. Noreen noted that the timing of the appointment cannot be changed to March as the appointment ends by the end of the calendar year by statute. As Roger will not be a County Commissioner as of January 2009, there is not a conflict there.
Tristan / Carlene moved to appoint Roger Wey to the Dukes County Retirement Board. All in favor.
Evaluation of County Manager
Les ask the Commissioners if they agreed to the forms and the timeframe as outlined by Les and Melinda. Tristan commented on going to the town administrators – they are not evaluating the Manager. We are going to find out how he communicates with them. He said that the whole review process of getting input from the county government and also from the local governments is always an awkward process but he supports it. Melinda said that one of the comments was on how to do the ratings. Carlene suggested that if you rate each category, it would be more transparent where the strengths and the weaknesses are and have space for comments by each category. She suggested that we give final rating to each evaluation from each the Commissioners. Roger agreed. Next year we should add a box to the form for putting in the letters (E, M, D).
Tristan/Carlene motion to approve the County Manager Evaluation documents with a change that each category will get a rating and the then there will be an overall final rating. All in favor.
John commented that the town administrators/managers did not include the county manager to their meetings and he feels they should not comment on the strengths or weaknesses of the county manager. He feels that we are asking for more difficulties. He wants it shorter and more direct. Carlene said she thinks that it is to the point. John said that we don’t need that many questions. He feels that two questions are enough. Tristan said questions 1, 2 and 3 are fine and question 4 could be eliminated. Tristan hopes that manager will go to the town administrators meetings and they will include him in the future.
Tristan/ Roger moved to eliminate question No.4. from the questioner for the town administrators otherwise approve the form. All in favor.
Tristan asked if the form will be sent out or if we bring it to them? Les said that each commissioner would talk to their town administrator and get the answers from them: Tristan - Vineyard Haven, John – West Tisbury, Lenny – Chilmark and Aquinnah, Carlene – Edgartown, Roger – Oak Bluffs.
Tristan /Carlene moved to approve the form for the Department Heads. All in favor.
Tristan suggested that we include the Tribe in the Department Heads for this year. All agreed. Lenny will go to the Tribe.
Carlene suggested that she would meet with Dianne Powers, Register of Deeds and Michael McCormack, the Sheriff. Melinda and Les will interview the rest. Tristan volunteered to meet with any Department Heads if there is a need.
Please have all evaluation forms in by Friday December 12th at noon. Les hopes to compile all the forms with Melinda and to get a draft letter that would put together all the comments. As soon as you fill out your personal evaluation, call Russell to meet with him individually to go over it before you submit it on Friday.
County Manager’s Report – Russell Smith
Russell said that he hopes that people will point out to him areas to improve in even if it is not on the form.
Russell said that in the packets is a list of the areas to assign liaison responsibility and the Commissioner should come and see Russell if they want to be liaison in any of these areas. Russell noted that Tristan mentioned in the past that we might want to have a liaison for fishing interests on the island and have a board to put these people together. Tristan commented that he would like to sponsor a conference to invite people who are involved in fishing issues and see if there is an interest for them to create an island wide forum concerning fishing and that The County could facilitate it. We will not be running it or supporting it financially, but it might help them if the County is behind them as an advocate when they are off island promoting their interests. On Cape Cod it is not the County, but there is an association, they are
organized and there are issues that they deal with. Carlene asked if this would be just for the commercial fishermen or recreational fisherman also? Tristan answered that it would probably be mainly the commercial fishermen, but the two groups interact. Tristan /Carlene moved to find out if there is an interest and have an early winter conference with the island fishermen. All in favor. Lenny suggested calling his brother and Tom Osmer, as he is active in it.
Tristan asked Russell how are the liaison responsibilities being assigned. Russell suggested that the Commissioners contact him and we will look at what is left and fill in the blanks later.
Russell informed the Commissioners that the island wide GIS (graphic information system) is something that the Sheriff’s people are putting together with the police departments. It will also serve the fire departments and the emergency medical personnel. They have system that is not fulfilling their needs. They are talking about having one for the whole island where all towns would use it. It would show them on the map where exactly they are going. A Martha's Vineyard Public Safety Information Systems Committee has been working on regionalizing the system and came up with the ESRI program. Currently each town is providing some form of this separately and paying different amounts to finance it. All the towns need some kind of a system; they differ in how much they use it. All town assessors (except for Chilmark) are also using a graphic
program called Vision and they are being told that they need to switch to the new company called ESRI, which is the same company that the police departments, fire and emergency medical people would like to use. It is a standard platform for the industry. The idea is that the County would be the licensee and we would make it available to all towns, police and everybody else who is interested in the municipal community. You can exchange information through the system, you can limit who gets what information etc. The server would be at the Sheriff’s Communication Center up at the Airport. There will be no limit on how many people can use it. In the current system you pay per user and all the information that goes in it does belong to the private company. In the new system all data we put in is ours. All the add-on software, specific for water and sewer departments or electric companies is available to us for free. The contract would be for 3.5 year starting on January 1st,
2009. One full year costs $25000. The towns are currently spending about $18,000 on the systems and if they add the assessors, it will be a wash. The important thing is that all the police, fire, emergency people want this system, the Sheriff wants to supply them with this and the assessors are forced to use it too. Russell talked to the town administrators and they are aware of this, but they do not have approval from the selectmen yet. Russell would like the administrators, police and fire chiefs and assessors to talk to their selectmen to make them understand that they need the system and have their support. Russell asked the Commissioners to approve that the County buys the license for the island. He assured the Commissioners that this company is very well know in the industry and is the best solution according to Chris Seidel from the MV Commission, who knows about the GIS systems. We are getting a deal as the company would like to use us as a showcase to bring other potential
customers here to show them how the system works on regional bases. The Sheriff and the Towns of Chilmark and Oak Bluffs all wrote grants to make this happen. The Sheriff’s grant is $22,000 and together with the town grants total $28,500. The grant money would cover the first 6 months. After that it would be $25,000 a year (based on a FY) and the towns would contribute their share from their budgets as they budgeted for the spending on the system before. The MVPSIS Committee would oversee the use of the system. Lenny asked if there is a document proposal that the Commissioners could read to see what it is and how much it will cost. Russell said that there is a document but it is not complete. We don’t know yet how the bill will be divided – if by equalized valuation or by number of users in each town. Roger said that the Commissioners will give ok to pursue this but no contract will be signed before the Commissioners have chance to review it. Russell said that this needs to be done
before the first of the year so that the Sheriff and the Towns of Chilmark and Oak Bluffs can spend their grant money on the first half year of the contract starting January 1st. Russell would like a memorandum of understanding from all the towns stating that they are on board with this and agree that the County will act only as a licensee. Tristan asked if the first year is covered at $25000 per year with the grant money. Russell said that only the fist half year is covered, as there are some one time start up costs. Tristan asked if the County will have to write articles to get the money in to cover the cost or if the MVPSIS will do that. Russell said that the MVPSIS Committee will decide how the bill is split up and who pays what share and we will administer it. This will not be warrant article for the County; it will come directly from the towns’ budget. Lenny asked who would sign the contract. Russell answered that the County will. Lenny said that then the County is
responsible for the money and how do we get the money from the towns? Russell explained that it will not be a warrant article or a special assessment, it will come directly from the existing towns’ IT budget. The maintenance fee is already included in the $25,000 per year. We will send the towns a bill for it. Lenny commented that then it will be like an assessment. Carlene said that this is exactly the type of the program that they envision the County would be doing and she supports it. She asked if Russell will be getting any type of assurances from the towns in the form of Selectmen approval before the County signs the contract. Russell said that he will need a commitment from the towns that they will participate in this program. Carlene asked if it has to be a 3.5 years contract. Russell said that that is the proposal on the table right now. Melinda asked if the towns understand that the fee they will have to pay for the system is above the assessment that they pay to the
County. Noreen said that we do the same type of a thing for the MV Law Enforcement Counsel. It will be a county contract, but it is the same group of people that came to the county saying that this is what they want and how they want it done and where the money comes from and how they want to handle it. It would not be a lot of increase in administration. Tristan said that this is a good idea but we need to know much more about this. We already have the health care access program and the rodent control program, where if the towns want the service we are upfront with them what it will cost them. Tristan would prefer the same approach. If the towns want to fund it the County will do it, if overtime they don’t then the County will not do it. We need to know more details regarding how we are going to fund it and the long-term idea of this and what the County relationship is with the MVPSIS group. Russell noted that this is not at all the same as the VHCAP or the Rodent Control Program.
This is already in the towns’ budget; it will not be a line on the County budget. There is however a risk for the County being the licensee as legally we would be responsible for it. Carlene said that clearly the County will be obligated, the group is just facilitating it, and they are not obligated. We need to obligate the towns in some way to get the assurance that they will come up with x amount of money each year. We cannot obligate ourselves without having an obligation from the users. Russell commented that we are looking for a memorandum of understanding from each town. They do see it as benefit to them as they would not be able to do it on their own. Lenny commented that first when the MV Commission budget was adopted Tisbury did not want to pay it as they thought that it was wrong. If we going to sign a contract we need to be protected, so people will pay their fair share.
John/Roger moved to pursue this. All in favor.
Courthouse Subcommittee Report
Carlene informed the Commissioners that the subcommittee met – Russell, Dianne Powers, Noreen Mavro Flanders, Art Smadbeck, Joe Sollitto, Martina was taking minutes for us. We talked about putting together a long-term plan for the building and priorities that need to be addressed – the roof, electrical system, plumbing. Russell and Dianne will put together a schedule of deferred maintenance with estimated costs. We talked about possible resources for funding it. Russell will work on putting the building on the state historic registry and the federal registry as well. We hope to get some grants to do these renovations. The current estimate for cost of the deferred maintenance is about $500,000. Russell noted that Lenny found the Courthouse report in the archives and we gave copy to Carlene and Dianne Powers.
Carlene left the meeting.
Noreen informed the Commissioners that in their packets is an Income and expense Report for this fiscal year as of the end of November. However, some things do not get turned in until the next month, like the Registry of deeds revenue. The Commonwealth did not pay us anything for the courthouse rent and Cape and Island license plates are usually one month behind. We should have 58% remaining to collect at this time of the year if we were as anticipated. Including the income we got today from the Registry of deeds we have 72% to collect in Registry fees, same amount in Land Court fees, 70% in our copy revenue and in deed excise tax 68% – so all these are running behind. We have a Department Head meeting on Friday and it will be a tough to hear that we only need to spend what is absolutely necessary. The good part is we don’t have to
spend the $30,000 that was budgeted for courthouse roof, nor the $7500 that was budgeted for interest. These savings are quickly being eaten up by the revenue that is not coming in. Tristan asked if there is a reason why Tisbury did not pay their assessment yet. Noreen said no, they just need to be reminded couple of times. Gosnold has paid. We need to put a budget together for fiscal year 2010. We used $90,000 from the reserved fund to balance the budget for FY2009. We cannot do the same for next year. We have $107,000 left in this fund. Noreen is looking for a policy to tell the department heads when they put their budgets together. One suggestion is no cola. There will be 5-7% increase in health insurance cost. Even though she was against it in the past, she is now recommending to look at the 75/25% health insurance cost split in the future. We cannot implement it for FY2010. We need to look at the salary scales and make adjustments. All three union contracts are still
open for negotiations. It cannot be changed for the retirees as they have fixed income.
Tristan asked if there is a way we could project where we will be in June? Noreen answered no. We can press upon the Department Heads on how we spend the money that is left in the budget ($657,000 after salaries paid out). But now when we are officially in a recession we don’t know what it is going to do with the real estate market. So we are looking at our revenue being down because of it. Same with the Cape & Island license plates. We can only increase the assessment by 2.5% each year, which leaves the County with about an additional $2000, most of the assessment goes to the Sheriff’s department and the Registry of deeds. The health insurance is going up by 5-7%; the employees get only 2% step increase. Roger asked about the Cape & Island license plates revenue. Noreen said that they are very behind on getting the money to
us, but so far it will be close to the budgeted number. Tristan suggested that the County Advisory Board needs to meet and consider this situation. And the Commissioners should be more pro-active and come up with solutions before the Advisory Board dictates something to them. Russell commented that the Pest Management Program and the Vineyard Health Care Access Program received 50% of the cost of the programs from the towns. At an Advisory Board meeting it was agreed that next year the split would be 60% from the towns and 40% from the County and so on until eventually the towns would absorb the whole cost. We did receive request from 5 towns for level budgets for the next years. Russell asked Sarah to talk about her budget. She said she wants everyone to be aware that the budget she presented at the all island selectmen’s meeting in October, asked for increased funding to stabilize the VHCAP funding base. She proposed for FY 2010 that the towns’ share of funding would be
$100,000, which represents about 1/3 of VHCAP budget and the County contribution to be the same -$50,000. If we are successful with grants we could ask for less the next year. If the bottom line of the 50/50 (or 60/40) split is $90,000 that is very limiting as far as sustaining the level of service to the community. Roger asked if the towns are aware of this increase. Sarah answered that this is a proposal she presented at the all island selectmen’ meeting and everybody was supportive, but now with the memos of level funding she is not sure if the support for this proposal is still there. Roger said that it would be important to go to the different finance committees. In Oak Bluffs there will be no salary increases in the budget for next year and it would be important to explain why she is looking for increased funding. Sarah commented that in this time there will be more demand for safety net programs like this one. Roger agreed that these are difficult times and this program is
needed. Melinda asked if Sarah went to towns for supplemental funding in spring. Sarah said no, that was our regular FY09 budget. Sarah is now looking for the Advisory Board to look at this proposal and get back to the Commissioners with the feedback on the increase. Les commented that Sarah is now
looking to increase the funding from towns by more then the 10% extra that was agreed last year. Lenny commented that it is much more then that. Tristan said that in Tisbury even with level funding they will honor the contractual employee obligations, which is different from Oak Bluffs approach. Also Tristan would like to know the likelihood of getting or not getting the grant funding for the program. The increase needs to be explained, he is not in favor of any new program, we need to keep it at a minimum. Tisbury understands the agreement that there will be a 60/40 split for next year, 70/30 the following year etc. until the program is fully funded. Lenny commented that the deal was done last year, so nobody should be surprised. Tristan said that what will be scrutinized is the increase of the bottom line. Roger said that in Oak
Bluffs the revenues are down and they are facing lay offs in January, so this is a critical time. Lenny commented that last year the County gave the program $45,000 and for next year she is asking for extra $5,000. Sarah said that the $50,000 represents both, the VHCAP and the NY Ave building expense, so she is not asking for more money from the County. Lenny suggested that it should be 10% less and that the County should still ask the towns for what was agreed, which is a 10% increase from last year and the VHCAP should have a special article to ask for anything extra. Melinda commented that the increase would be also dependent on getting the grants. Sarah commented that she is waiting to hear back on several grants and can report back in January. She has for the current fiscal year about $80,000, but that could change. She wants to get away from the day-to-day budgeting approach but she understands that this might not be a good time. Russell noted that we will have the warrant
articles to the towns ready with the 60% of last years and then the rest will be a special warrant article from the VHCAP. We talked to the towns and we have the dates when they need to be submitted and they are expecting it. Tristan suggested that the warrant articles should be ready for approval at the next meeting with numbers. Russell said that the County Advisory Board will be meeting and discussing it based on the discussions at this meeting. He said he wants to be clear what the level funding letters mean. Lenny said that it means that the County should not increase the assessment by more then 2.5%. Roger said that he spoke in favor of the program at the last town meeting and he will speak for it again. Russell noted that after talking to the hospital he found out that number of people being covered from the free care pool did not decrease. What has changed due to the VHCAP is the number of people who come to the hospital without insurance with intention to pay the
bills, but then they are not able to pay it (self-employed carpenters etc.) The debt that the hospital carries has significantly decreased as the average working people did sign up for health insurance. Tristan added that now when the health insurance is mandatory, the working people will be penalized for not having it and will be looking for options. Russell added that the hospital is changing the way the emergency room is being used, not being the first choice of health care if you have a cold for people without health insurance. Melinda asked if the hospital would consider a grant from their free care budget to the VHCAP budget since they are benefiting from it. Sarah commented that they had lengthy discussions with them but it did not happen yet. Lenny and Tristan agreed to go to the hospital next week to try again. Russell said he was also meeting with the hospital on this. Tristan noted that they also need to see the article for the Pest Management Program. Russell said that
T.J. Hegarty should be at the next meeting. Noreen said that the towns paid $35,000 of the Pest Management Program budget last year. T.J.’s revenue is fabulous; he has only 32% left to collect until the end of fiscal year of his goal of $20,000. Tristan commented that he might exceed his goal, which is a good selling point.
John Alley left the meeting.
Lenny asked how much is the shortfall in our revenues. Noreen answered that it is about 15%. Lenny asked if we should be looking at where we can cut the 15% of the expenses. Tristan asked if Noreen can get back to the Commissioners after the Department Heads meeting about where they can cut. Lenny said that if they could at least earmark what they will not spend so we can be on budget. If revenues will pick up, we will have some room, if they don’t we have to cut somewhere. Russell said that what Noreen has suggested earlier was to have no COLA for next year - this should help. Lenny said that for next year it should be zero base budget – start with only what you actually need, not what you had last year. Russell said that he agrees. Tristan suggested looking at the land the County owns and at what we are planning to do with it.
Russell said regarding the discussions about the courthouse, it turned out that it costs the County on average about $12,000 a year to own the Courthouse. This date from over the past 18 years was based on what the State paid us in rent versus what it cost us to operate the building. The $12,000 a year gives us 20% of the building to operate the Registry of Deeds. If we were to move it anywhere else, it would cost us at least about $60,000. Lenny commented that in that case it is not a money-loosing proposition. Noreen said that with the market today it is not a good time to sell any of the properties we own. It is also not a wise decision to use the capital assets like land to finance operating cost. She thinks that when we have to fund the OPEB
liability, we could sell some land to be able to do it. Tristan asked again to get an inventory of land so if there is land of no value to us we could sell it in the future and set up some kind of fund with the proceeds to generate a little interest to be used for OPEB etc. We talked about a room tax but that will not happen this year, so we need to get creative.
Russell informed the Commissioners that the courthouse roof contractor suggested by DECAM did examine the roof doing exploratory holes. We supplied a contractor to patch the holes and we also patched other areas to stop the leaks. We have submitted the contract to the State to get the money to fix the roof.
Big and little bridge project – The contractor was talking about closing the road, but the towns were against it, as was the Mass. Highway. There was a meeting last week and the road will not be closed. The contractor has ordered all the parts needed to begin the work and met the requirements of Mass. Highway to start. The little bridge and the outside walk way on the big bridge should be done this winter. We will have a meeting with Mass. State Highway, the contractor, the towns and the contractor to lie out the schedule for this winter. Roger commented that it was a miscommunication. According to the contract the road should not be closed. The contractor went to the towns saying that if the towns close the road he could do it faster. Russell said that after it was in the paper they immediately had couple of meetings with the State
Highway representatives and determine that the road will not be closed. We have to choose the finish for the concrete underneath the bridge and we will have the Barrier Beach Task Force, the Friends of Sengekontacket and anybody else who is interested to have a look at the options.
Tristan / Roger moved to adjourn the meeting at 7pm. All in favor.
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts