Dukes County Commission Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
County Administration Building
Call to Order
Chairman Lenny Jason called the County Commissioner’s meeting to order at 5:10 p.m. Commissioners Tristan Israel, John Alley, Tom Hallahan, 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, Sheriff Michael McCormack, James Coyne – candidate for Airport Commissioner, Airport Manager Assistant Deborah Potter, Steve Myrick of MV Times, Mark London of Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Kerry Scott – Oak Bluffs Selectman, J. Hickey of MV Gazette, Tad Crawford, Joanie Ames of MVTV.
John/Tristan moved to approve the minutes of meeting on 2/25/09. So Voted. In favor: Lenny, John, Tristan, Tom. Abstained: Carlene, Les. (4-0-2).
John/Carlene moved to approve the minutes of meeting on 3/11/09. So voted. In favor: Lenny, Carlene, John, Tom. Abstained: Tristan, Les. (4-0-2).
John/ Tristan moved to appoint Sheriff Michael A. McCormack as Point of contact to National Incident Management Systems (1-year appointment), Fred Condon and James Coyne as Commissioners to the Airport Commission (3 year appointments). So voted. Carlene abstained in respect to the appointment of Fred Condon as Airport Commissioner. All in favor.
Sheriff clarified that the as Point of Contact the federal government would contact him in case they have to come to the island for any purpose.
Tristan / John moved to appoint Tom Hallahan to the Health Council and if Tom will have a conflict Lenny Jason will fill in for him. Discussion: Tom is teaching on Thursdays, but he will try to be present at the meetings through other communication ways. He can do the second half of the year in person. Lenny will fill in if Tom asks him. So voted. All in favor.
Connie Teixeira could not come to present the next agenda topic.
Lights out MV 2009 – Tad Crawford made a presentation on behalf of the Vineyard Conservation Society in partnership with Vineyard Energy Project of the second year of Lights out MV project that will take place on Saturday March 27th between 8.30 - 9.30pm to raise awareness of the energy consumption in our everyday life and promote energy conservation. He asked for the Commissioners to support this project as they did last year. The Commissioners agreed to support it. Russell noted that we advertise it on the county website also.
Mark London presented the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s proposal of an all-island assessment of public services, how they are provided as recommended by the Charter Study Commission. The MVC has funding from Affordable Housing Community Development to help look at the municipal partnership. They presented the proposal for a study at the All-island Selectmen’s meeting also. They would bring in an objective third party with experience in this filed to take inventory of what public services are now being delivered, by what entity, what is the budget, men power and compare it with how the services are being delivered elsewhere and identify candidates that are the most likely to be explored further. It would get done over the next few months.
Tristan/Carlene moved to support the project. So voted. All in favor.
Tom Hallahan made a presentation on House Bill H-103 An Act Transferring County Sheriffs to the Commonwealth
. This Bill is dealing only with the remaining 7 counties that are not under the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction. The Bill H-103 is presently in the Joint Committee on State Administration & Regulatory Oversight. The committee’s vice-chair is Senator O’Leary. According to his office, the bill is projected to move out of committee within the next 10 days. It will move to Ways & Means since it has a budget impact. Amendments to the bill should happen before it is moved out of committee.
There are 3 sections: Section 7, 10 and 13 which need the County’s attention.
Present financing of Sheriff’s Office:
Maintenance of Effort (MoE) the towns are being assessed as always at 102.5% of the previous FY. In FY 2009 the MoE is $517K. This accounts for 25% of County’s budget and 15% of the Sheriff’s Office budget. Deeds Excise Tax revenues are split between the Commonwealth 57.5% and remaining 42.5%: 75% Sheriff (which accounts for 25% of his budget); 15% County; 10% Registry of Deeds. The Commonwealth accounts for the remaining at least 60% of the Sheriff’s budget.
Changes in Budget per H-103:
Maintenance of Effort (MoE): According to Section 10 (version 9) the towns will continue to be assessed for the MoE. These funds will go to the Dukes County Contributory Retirement System (DCCRS) to pay the unfunded pension liabilities of the Sheriff’s retirees (11 people). This amount is projected to be $2M, which is in addition to the current fund balance. Any money remaining will go into the Commonwealth’s General Fund. In 4-5 years, the DCCRS will be funded sufficiently and the County’s liability will get lower over the time as these retirees will leave the system. MoE will come to the County and then it will flow from the County to the State. We don’t get any administration fee for that, as the duties are minimal.
Deeds Excise Tax: According to Section 13 of H-103 the County will keep 10.625% of the Deed Excise Tax revenue. This amount will be divided 60/40 between the County and Registry of Deeds. The remaining 89.35% will go to the Commonwealth. The result is revenue neutral for the County. Since the Commonwealth will be funding the Sheriff, the uncertainty of funding amount to the Sheriff from the deeds excise taxes will be eliminated. Presently, the A & F develops a supplementary budget during the FY to cover the shortfalls.
Commonwealth: The Commonwealth will account for the remaining 66% of the budget.
This will appear as a line item in the Governor’s annual budget. The Sheriff Department will be considered a state agency. However, no section in H-103 addresses the Commonwealth’s fiscal responsibilities specifically other then general outline.
Benefits to the County:
Retirement Fund: Present Employees will become State employees. Their deductions & accrued interest will be transferred to the State immediately. When they retire, they will fall under State’s retirement system 100% with NO LIABILITY to the County. This will save the County about $3million within the next 5 years if the 15 employees that will be eligible to retire will retire. The total pay out over their projected lifetime would be about $6 million. We are 50% funded so not having this liability will safe us $3million of unfounded liabilities that we will not need to contribute to the DCCRS. Noreen explained that next time we do actuarial study, it will show that the unfounded liability of the County is smaller because 15 of the people who are scheduled to retire in the next 5 years did leave the county (which are the
biggest financial liability) and it might lower the actual % of contribution to the retirement system of all remaining county employees from their paychecks. Currently 14% is being taken out.
Retired Employees (the amended Section 10) should reflect deleting the word the ‘pension’ results in all OPEB to be covered by the State. The other county liabilities other then pension (mainly health insurance) account for $89K annually. The amended Section 10 would allow this amount to be taken out from the MoE (517K) before it is sent to the DCCRS and once the system is fully funded, before the MoE is sent to the State. This money would decrease over time as retirees leave the system.
Land: Section 7
Edgartown property is assessed at $3.25M, see parcels 11.2, 11.11-11.13. This is a significant downtown property and it would probably sell for even more. The land with the buildings thereon would become property of the State as of 7/1/2009 if it were used solely by the Sheriff’s Office. There are two small building on the back lot. One is used as the women’s holding cell. We could enter into a lease agreement with the Sheriff for that building on map parcel 11.13 for 20 years, renewable for another 20years. This would leave the property in the County’s ownership.
Additionally we should consider amending Section 7. Suffolk and Barnstable counties have sections that are specific to their situations. Russell wrote a letter to Chairman Joyce asking to consider amendment adding Section 7D that states that all property no longer in use by the Sheriff’s Office would revert back to the County at no cost.
Communication Center: As H-103 is written, the Commonwealth would take over the ownership of the building, as it is a County building. The land is being leased from the Airport. The Communication Center has definitive plans to move over to the Community Corrections Center within the next 3-5 years. When the property is no longer used by the Sheriff’s Department we would like the building to revert back to the County.
Our responsibility is to come to a consensus on the H-103 bill and determine our support or lack of support for amended sections of the bill, specifically Section 3, Section 7 and Section 10.
Carlene asked if the jail building is on the National Register of Historic Places, it would be a big argument for the reversion back to the County if the property is not being used by the Sheriff’s Office. Lenny said that it is no part of the National Register. Sheriff said that there are precedents that properties were returned by the State to the County. Tom said that there is a “net zero” legislation that would require the exchange of property to be at no loss to the State, which would make our situation harder. It is not part of this bill. Russell said that Senator O’Leary and Representative Madden support the amendment for reversion of the property to the County if the buildings are discontinued to be used for Sheriff’s Office. Carlene asked how will the transfer to the State affect the relationship of the County and the Sheriff’s
Sheriff said that he does not see any change in services provided to the community and he hopes the cooperation will only grow. The future Sheriffs would answer to the community through the elections. Sheriff assured the Commissioner that all “state” sheriffs provide all if not more services then before. Tristan expressed that he feels that this change is pressed upon us and it is not our decision. Tom said that we could oppose it if we felt that it is wrong and bad deal for the County. But if we can get the Section 7 and 10 amended to the benefit of the County, it will take of a lot of financial budgetary pressure of the County. Carlene said that we have to insist that the jail property goes back to the County if it is not being used as a jail anymore. It is a highly visible important location on Main Street. John was also in support of
reverting the property back to the County. Noreen said we should thank Sheriff McCormack for the way this bill was put together in a way not to hurt the County, he was very supportive of all County’s comments and amendments. This is by far the best bill from all proposed bills regarding this issue. She opposed the Bill for years, but this year the Bill is put together so it is a benefit to the Sheriff and no harm and maybe a benefit to the County too. Noreen said the County Commissioners should vote on all this tonight and send letters as a Board and individually if you wish to our representatives and press to get the amendments through to protect the County. There is a meeting in Plymouth of the Counties Association regarding this Bill tomorrow. Section 10 worked differently for each county. Tom asked what say will the Sheriff have after the State takes over on what type of prisoners will come here. The Sheriff said he would have the same say as before, all his powers and duties
are preserved as is the authority to say what prisoners will come here. Carlene asked if there is a possibility that the State will do the same as on Nantucket and use the facility only as a holding cell. The Sheriff said that he serves 7 enforcement agencies as a holding cell and so our jail is in a different position and he does not see it happening.
Russell said that at this point it is apparent that the transfer is happening. At this point we need to make sure that the County is protected. Tad said that the Charter Study did study the possibility of Sheriff’s services being taken by the State and all concerns he had were addressed at this point except for couple intangibles, like the services that he provides to the community. Tad suggested that maybe encouraging the Sheriff to have an advisory body that will give him a formal mechanism to stay toned to the needs of the island. Sheriff said that he is the President of the Chief of Police Association and only people from Martha’s Vineyard elect him and he is and will continue to be concerned about what is happening on the island.
Tristan/Tom moved to support the Bill with the amendments by Senator O’Leary and send a letter signed by the Chairman to support the Bill. Tom clarified that the amendments we are supporting are amendment of Section 7 to include Section 7D that states: ”In the event the Commonwealth discontinues the use of the property for the purpose of the Sheriff’s operation, the property shall revert back to the County.”; the amendment of Section 13, which will act as unnecessary catch all for any unknown and outstanding liabilities that may have been left out of the legislation….” and amendment of Section 10 that leaves out the word “pension” and pertains to cover all unfunded liabilities for the retirees. So voted. All in favor. Unanimous.
Russell reported that the Fishermen’s Association met couple of times and they are in opposition to House Bill #786 regarding disallowing commercial bass fishing. They are also trying to get some moneys back from the proposed Cape Wild Project to be used for fishermen’s purposes. They sent us a letter asking the county to supply them with office space and a computer. We have the space in the laboratory that has a computer with internet access and they asked us if we could let them use the space.
Tristan/John moved to let the Fishermen’s Association use the laboratory space and the computer. Discussion: They should help clean up the room as part of the deal. So voted. All in favor.
Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group and the Fishermen’s Association (Warren Dotty) found grant from NOAA for costal restoration and shellfish resource propagation. They would produce 15 million bay scallop seeds and 5 million oyster seeds and eliminate 150,000 green crabs over two seasons – the predators of the shellfish and planting ell grass. They are looking to create 23 jobs as part of the project. The total grant is for $2,145,000. They are asking the County Commissioners for a letter of support.
Tristan/Carlene moved to support their effort and send letter of support. So voted. All in favor.
John/Tristan moved to send a letter supporting the Fishermen’s Association in their opposition of the “Bass” bill to our representatives. So voted. All in favor.
The MSPCA will be closing on April 30th. All towns have their own Animal Control Officers but they perform different function then the MSPCA did for last 60 years – care of homeless animals, adoption, euthanasia and cremation of the animals. The County has been hosting meetings of the interested parties regarding this issue and it is apparent that the there is need for those functions on the island. The Task Force put together couple of scenarios and it was presented at the All Island Selectmen’s meeting. The Selectmen agreed to ask the County to participate in any regional solution. The budget presented was $250K with a $130K loss. It would require commitment from the towns to support the new shelter financially. The Selectmen asked the County to be involved in running the shelter starting on May 1st. Lenny said the County could run it for
limited time and come up with a long-term solution. It would have to be public – private cooperation. Lenny asked Russell to come up with budget for the animal shelter that could be presented to the towns and have it ready to go on May 1st. We would get the start up money from our reserve fund, pending approval by the County Advisory Board, which we would get back from the towns later. We need to come up with a plan, who will manage the shelter and what services we would provide.
Tristan /Tom moved to direct the County Manager to develop a plan that we could implement, how to run the future animal shelter. So voted. All in favor.
Tristan would also like to explore the regionalization of the regulations for all the towns regarding the animal control officers’ job to have cooperation under the same rules.
Kerry Scott thanked the Commissioners for the vote and presented $1000 donation from the Martha’s Vineyard Dog Club for support of the new animal shelter. There is14 people ready to help in any way. Noreen agreed that the public could start sending donations to the County of Dukes County, P.O. Box 190, Edgartown, MA. She will set up separate account for the donations for the animal shelter.
The Task Force Committee was established and is working with the County. We will have to establish a Board of Directors that will make the decision about the animal shelter, its operation and activities. Martha’s Vineyard Commission offered to set up a business plan for the animal shelter.
Last weekend we planted beach grass on State Beach, lots of people showed up and it was a success.
John/Carlene moved to adjourned the meeting at 6.45 p.m.
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts