Dukes County Commission Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
County Administration Building
Call to Order
Chairman Leslie Leland called the County Commissioner’s meeting to order at 5:10 p.m. Commissioners Tristan Israel, 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, Thomas J. Hallahan, Sc.D., Tad Crawford from Dukes County Health Council, Steve Myrick of M.V. Times, and Joanie Ames of MVTV.
Tristan/Carlene moved to approve the minutes of October 22, 2008. So Voted. All in favor.
Chairman’s Report – Les Leland
Les welcomed Thomas Hallahan, who is the new incoming Commissioner and will be officially seated on the first meeting of the year 2009.
Les read a letter from Roger Wey as he could not come to the meeting. Roger wrote that it was a pleasure to serve with all the Commissioners, wished them, the County Manager, employees and residents a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Tristan suggested writing Roger a letter thanking him for his service. All Commissioners agreed and will sign it.
Les read part of the contract that was originally signed on April 21st, when Russell took on the job. “Prior to January 1, 2009 the County Commissioners will evaluate Mr. Smith’s performance and if they find it to be satisfactory, the County Commissioners will appoint Mr. Smith as a Dukes County employee in the position of County Manager. That appointment would be effective January 1, 2009. This employment agreement will expire on June 30, 2009, subject to being renewed and renegotiated dependent upon continued satisfactory performance, as well as necessary funding and appropriation for the County Manger position for fiscal year 2010.”
Melinda read letter from Les Leland on behalf of all the County Commissioners to Russell:
According to the terms of our contract of April 22, 2008, the Commissioners must have undertaken an evaluation of your job performance in the first six months prior to your official appointment as full-time Manager in January 2009. This review measures your performance in the last six months, and is designed to help us together establish future goals for the County. It also serves as a tool for you and the Commissioners to measure your progress in your next annual performance review.
The evaluation process included individual assessments by each commissioner, interviews with County Department Heads and outreach to managers of towns and regional entities across the island. Our guiding principle was based on our mutually agreed upon goal of improving the accountability and reputation of the County on the island. Within this over-arching goal we identified visibility, outreach to municipal and regional organizations, continued liaison with State government, implementation of the Charter Study recommendations, management of personnel, attention to the budget, and revenue enhancement initiatives as critical criteria. While good progress has been made in these areas, we all recognize that many of the goals we are working towards require continuing and long-term effort to attain.
The Commissioners are pleased to report that you have either met or exceeded expectations in all aspects of rated job skills. Outstanding among your strengths are your work ethic and example of rolling up your sleeves to get things done, your communication skills in both listening and keeping everyone informed, and your cooperation and teamwork. The tone you have set is a respectful, positive, problem-solving and collaborative one that seeks to be accountable to all our constituencies.
We are also gratified to hear of your efforts in outreach and offers of involvement to Towns and regional organizations. While these efforts may be slow to bear fruit, you have made an excellent start in laying the groundwork for increased collaboration and confidence in County Government. We encourage you to continue to meet with Town Managers individually and when they meet as a group.
In your first months as Manager, you quickly established yourself in the position by taking on the immediate tasks of hiring and orienting personnel and implementing the recommendations of the Charter Study Commission. When problems are presented, you confront them directly, gather information and opinions from all appropriate individuals, and develop and implement a plan, e.g. the courthouse roof. The staff at the courthouse has been very impressed with your responsiveness. As we enter the complicated and challenging budget process where we anticipate declining resources, we hope you will continue that approach and willingness to learn that you have so far exhibited.
While the budget is an immediate and important task, we also want to use this opportunity to set goals and priorities for the County through the end of this fiscal year. These are goals we have agreed upon but have not yet prioritized:
1. Explore means of revenue enhancement to support the County budget.
2. Continue to interact with Towns, island-wide organizations and regional groups in order to be aware of their needs and to offer a forum for problem solving on a regional basis.
3. Continue to promote new ways the County can enhance regional efforts.
4. Carry out a Functionality Audit (recommended by the Charter Study Commission) and pursue recommendations emerging from it.
5. Work with the Commissioners to establish priorities and action plans.
6. Assess and, if necessary re-define, the role and function of Associate Commissioners, adding new areas as appropriate. (An example might be inclusion of an Associate Commissioner for the Wampanoag Tribe.)
7. Continue to maintain and strengthen existing services to ensure the County is successfully providing needed services.
8. Be prepared, along with the Commissioners, to add new goals when opportunities present themselves.
In conclusion, Russell, we are pleased with the enthusiasm, diligence and industry you have brought to your job as County Manager. You have gotten off to a great start and we are unanimous in our agreement to appoint you as Dukes County Manager, beginning in January 2009, according to our contract of April 2008.
Sincerely, Les Leland, Chair
Carlene/Tristan moved to accept the letter. So voted. All in favor.
Russell thanked the Commissioners for the positive evaluation. He thanked the staff for their hard work and for their support (especially Noreen and Martina). He also thanked the people in the towns who helped him. He accepted the offer for the job and promised to keep trying to do the best he can. Tristan said that Russell did a good job, but … we don’t know what our budget will be after June 30, 2009. Hopefully it will not affect your job and your work may help that situation, but we have financial issues and we need to look at how to work it out and keep our options open. Carlene asked Noreen if the County has money to support the contract for the remainder of the fiscal year. Les commented that it was budgeted for. Carlene said that we are in serious revenue shortfall. Tristan said that the County budgeted $60,000 for this
position. We had contract with Russell until the end of 2008 at $45,000/year that reflected the ¾ time that he worked. Noreen commented that it was budgeted at $75,000. Les added that Russell’s agreement was $45,000 at ¾ time and $60,000 starting at the beginning of the year. Noreen said that she asked department heads a couple of weeks ago to cut their current budget by 10-15% and do level funding for the next year. We have $30,000 budgeted that we are not going to spent for the repairs of the courthouse roof since we have the money from the legislator, $7500 we budgeted for interest that we don’t need, there are some savings in salary and health insurance in the Manger’s Office already where we budgeted for two people and the Manager as a contractor did not have health insurance. Carlene asked if we could determine what the shortfall will be. Tristan said the excise tax is down 15% and we need to be looking to FY 2010, where we don’t know
what is it going to be. Les said that he is aware of budgetary issues and he thinks that all the Commissioners are as well. Tristan said that we all know that we don’t have the same abilities to raise revenue as the towns. Russell commented that he understands all this and he wants to point out that the job was advertised at $75,000, but after talking to Les he only asked for $60,000. He believes in the County and regional government, he understands the financial constrains, but he is here for the long term and he hopes for a long and prosperous future.
Tristan / Melinda moved to appoint Russell Smith as County Manager starting January 1,2009 to June 30, 2009, subject to being renewed and renegotiated dependent upon continued satisfactory performance, as well as necessary funding and appropriation for the County Manger position for fiscal year 2010. All in favor.
County Manager’s Report – Russell Smith
Appointments – per Charter Study recommendations we adopted changes to the Administrative Code and will start the process accordingly the first week in January. Martina commented that the list of open positions and proposed advertisement for it is in the Commissioners' packets. The advertising will be for 3 weeks at the Martha's Vineyard Times. On the list is also a Clerk to the County Commissioners, a position different from the County Clerk, which is Joe Sollitto as officio as the Clerk of Courts. Tristan suggested not advertising for the Clerk to the County Commissioners as they agree to appoint Joe Sollitto to that position as well. Carlene commented that the Legal Counsel position does not really fit in the list and asked if it is for a legal counsel to the County. Tristan said that we had Marcia Cini as legal counsel.
Martina added that the appointment is expiring on December 31, 2008. Then there is a Labor Counsel position for negotiations with unions. Tristan suggested advertising for both positions. Lenny asked if we also have a Bond counsel. Noreen said yes, it is a specific category and we only use Rick Manley, who works for Palmer & Dodge, we do that through the Financial Advisory Board and use him only when we go to borrow. Melinda asked if the legal counsels are paid for their services. Les said yes and normally we would do a RFP for the position and it should not be on the list for advertising of the volunteer positions.
Tristan / Carlene motion to do the advertising of open volunteer positions listed on the list except for the Clerk to the County Commissioners and legal counsel and to put RFP for the legal counsel and labor counsel and an auditor. Discussion – Tristan asked when would the appointments be made. Les said in March. Martina commented that the Health Council only meets once in a month and they asked if they can give the Commissioners the names of the candidates to be appointed at the 2nd meeting in March (3/25). We could do other appointments at the first meeting in March (3/11). The advertising will be the first 3 weeks in January; the deadline for Applications is February 6th. We have two meetings in February to go over the applications before we make the appointments in March. Lenny commented that the Health
Council was late before and he wants to make sure they will be ready this time. Tad from the Health Council said that the schedule submitted to the County was reviewed with the Health Council and they are on board. It gives them enough time and there will not be a delay. They will have their candidates for appointment at the 2nd meeting in March.
So voted. All in favor.
Russell said that Tristan and Melinda sent in a letter saying what organizations they would take liaison responsibility for and be involved in. There are still some “outstanding” regional organizations. Russell will give the list to Mr. Hallahan to see what would he be interested in.
All 6 towns, except for West Tisbury that is meeting right now, did agreed to participate in the purchase of the ESRI system. The County will act as the licensee for the system. The towns will be able to use system that is up to date in the industry and the County will be able to distribute it to an unlimited number of public entities. It is going to be a good thing for the County; we will act as the umbrella. There will be a committee created to oversee the structure and the distribution of the system. We have 9 users signed up right now – the 6 towns, MV Commission, Airport, Sheriffs Department and all agreed to split the cost 9 ways instead of 10 as initially agreed. Noreen said that at the last meeting it was said that there might be a slight contribution from the County, but we don’t have to do this now. The County had a
server, that was a surplus property and nobody wanted it. The server can be used for the GIS system, which saved $4000 - that will be the County‘s contribution. The software to put the dot on the map is a one time initial cost of $16,000. Sheriff’s grant and smaller grants from the Towns of Chilmark and Oak Bluffs will cover the first 6 months of the project and the purchase of this software. After that the accounting will be on fiscal year bases. Carlene commented that Russell did a good job getting before all the selectmen in couple weeks time and get it approved. She asked how would the towns commit to pay their part of the cost. Russell said that he requested a signed Memorandum of understanding from each entity, which spelled out that there will be 9 users and the cost for each will not exceed $3,500. He explained to all the selectmen that this has nothing to do with the County Assessment or warrant articles, it is comes from their town budgets as they are already
paying for this type of a service (assessors, etc.) except the new system will be better. The County signed the Memorandum of understanding with the towns that we will act as the umbrella. We will bill the towns for their share. Carlene mentioned that it is important because the County will be legally obligated to pay the whole bill.
Tom Hallahan asked if it went out for bit or how did this company contact us, if we saw the system in working order and did we talked to other towns what their experience is with the software. Russell answered that it was not put out for bid. It came to the County from the All-island Police Association and the emergency management people that have been working on this for a year and wanted to regionalize the system. There are only two competitors in this field. 5 town assessors were using the Vision software for their maps and the company is discontinuing the use of their old system and telling the assessors that they need to use ESRI, which is the same system that the police, fire and emergency people picked. Russell said he talked to people at the MV Commission, assessors and IT people from the Sheriff’s office, who know about
those systems much more then he to get more information about it and they agree that this system will best fit the island and it is the standard platform for the GIS today. The company wants to use Martha’s Vineyard as a showcase of how it works when the towns use it together. Chilmark is already signed up for this system for the assessors.
Bid for fuel - Russell said that the County puts out a bid for fuel for a group of public entities including schools, towns, fire departments, county buildings, the airport, etc. He did put the bid out in the spring and received a set price from R.M. Packer Co. Since then the price dropped to $1.50 per gallon. We were contacted by several users that were aware of the fact that they are being charged under the contract more then what it was sold of the truck. We did not want everybody to go on their own because in the past it saved the users about $100-150,000 collectively. After communication with the Packer Co. we agreed to get everybody from under the contract as of January 1st and deliver oil at the daily standard price until the end of June.
Lenny and Tristan asked to send the Packer Co. a letter of appreciation. Les agreed, as this is great news. Noreen said thank you to Russell, it sounds easy but Russell had several meetings and long conversations with Mr. Packer and he did a good job for all the users.
Last week there was a meeting of the County Advisory Board. The revenues are down and we cannot keep our budget at a current level because we are already using $90,000 of free cash in the current budget. We need to look at ways to cut cost. She is not recommending it but one place to look at is the change of contributions for health insurance from 90/10 to 75/25. We could do it gradually over several years. Sean Flynn said last week at the meeting that if the Commissioners vote the policy to change the contribution rate, he will have to go back to the union and impact bargain. The Sheriff’s contract with the unions is also
open. The other thing that we need to look at is the plans that we are offering. There is one that we carry – the indemnity plan - that is not available on the open market anymore. We offered some incentives couple years ago to get people to move from the indemnity plan to PPOs or HMOs. This is also something that the Commissioners need to look at in the future and it will have to go to impact bargaining. Noreen said that in actuality the PPO has better benefits that the indemnity plan and less expensive. It is very personal issue. We can’t recommend to people what plan will work for them but we can look at which plans we can afford to offer. If we make change in contribution rate we would need to make adjustments to the salary scale at the same time, as our salaries are not the same as the towns. Noreen said she can put together couple of scenarios how to approach this. She hopes to have the budges back tomorrow and at the 1st meeting in January have
an idea about the budget.
Tristan said that we need a small group with some expertise to solve issues about how we get to the lower contribution rate, what cuts to make, what programs to cut, what to offer etc. Noreen suggested having a meeting of employees; they should have a voice into that. It becomes issue with taxable benefits and non-taxable benefits even if they end up with same income between benefits and salary but their salary goes up, it might affect their eligibility for other subsidized support as daycare etc. We should have an insurance advisory counsel in the County anyway; she doesn’t think that any of the towns have one. There will be two new plans offered through the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group called “rate saver plans” and it is a question if those plans should be part of the menu. They may bring something to us that we did
not come up with that might be part of the solution. Tristan said that he thinks there should be a sub-committee and the new ideas should come from the management. Carlene said that we should do both and let the small group meet with the employees. Lenny asked Noreen to explain the impact bargaining with the unions. Noreen said that if the Commissioners decide to have 75/25 split, it opens up the contract. The unions have to agree that people will pay more for their health insurance and how you raise the salary scale to equalize it. Lenny said that we also have to equalize it for all other County employees, as everybody needs to be treated fairly. Tristan said that we might not have the money to do the equalization and we need to have a game plan first. Noreen said that the unions are not in our budget. Noreen said we would have to notify the president of the unions that we are making a change. It is up to them if they will be negotiating it.
Tristan/Carlene moved to have the Chairman appoint an information gathering committee for potential cut in contributions to the employees’ health insurance and that one of the members be Noreen. Discussion: Lenny commented that it is Russell’s job to show where the other cuts can be. Appointments to the committee to be made at the next meeting. So voted. All in favor.
Warrant articles – Russell informed that we sent to the towns warrant articles for the Vineyard Health Care Access Program and the Pest Management Program. Last year the cost was split 50/50 between the towns and the County and the towns 50% was split based on the equalized valuation formula. This year we did a 60/40 split as previously agreed with the towns and the County Advisory Board. We have level funded these programs. Additionally the VHCAP submitted their own warrant articles to towns looking for additional money based on the fact that more then 1/3 of their budget is funded through grants and they are looking for some stability if the grants do not come through. Tristan mentioned that there were some issues with wording last year and he wants to make sure there will not be the same mistake done this year. He
feels that the two articles should be taken together at the town meeting, because if people get confused they tend to vote no. Tad commented that the part of the budget funded through grants is 2/3 and that is the reason why the VHCAP is so exposed. He said that the language that was submitted is consistent for all the towns and it is clear and any changes that will be made at this point will be made by the towns themselves. Sarah’s plan is to meet with each of the towns’ selectmen to explain both the articles and eliminate any confusion. Russell pointed out that at the last meeting when Sarah presented her proposal for more funding, we discussed that we have letters from 5 towns asking for level funding and the Commissioners decided to stick with the agreement 60/40 and have Sarah submit a separate warrant article for any additional funding. Tristan said that in Tisbury the articles are being drawn at the meeting and there will have to be a suggestion to the
moderator to take those two together. Russell said that the CAB members supported this method and we can ask them to support it to have the two articles discussed together at each town meeting.
DECAM – Russell said as we got the money to repair the roof and he wanted to make the point that it was because he and Noreen made it a prevalent issue with the Representative Turkington and with the support of Senator O’Leary.
Tristan asked how is the conference on fishing issues is coming out. Russell said that he is still working on the membership, as he would like to have a person from each town. Tristan suggested to set a date and have at least an informal meeting with 5 people and advertise it and may be some more people will show up.
Les read a letter of resignation from Frank Gildeau as MVY Commissioner as of December 31, 2008. Tristan asked if we reappoint for the remainder of the position. Les said that after discussions with Sean it seemed appropriate to advertise for the position in January with all the other positions and make the appointment in March for one year. Tristan was the only one who felt the advertising should be done sooner and the appointment made prior to March. Martina asked how the Commissioners would determine who from the interested people for Airport Commissioner position would get the one-year term. Les said there would be three positions advertised for 3-year term and one position advertised for one-year term.
Commissioners asked Russell to send a letter of appreciation to Mr. Gildeau.
Letter from the MVY Commission regarding their meeting on December 17th with representative from Hoyle Tanner & Associates, Inc. and presenting an overview of an airport project which will shift Runway 6-24 approx. 303’ northeast in order to comply with the current FAA safety standards.
The Commissioners adjourned the meeting at 6.25p.m.
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts