No. 1. There will be two town managers at annual town meeting. Interim Town Manager Mike Milanoski will preside over the meeting but former town manager Mike Coughlin will be sitting at Milanoski’s elbow – giving a live critique of articles and motions.
No. 2. Karen Quigley’s citizens’ petition – an article (Article 21) asking the town to take charge of its water and sewer commissions is more than timely. “Who knows what will happen with the hammer of the mighty Commonwealth coming down,” Sewer Chair John Beck told advisors last week.
Yeah, stupid us. Again.
As of early last week, 124 homes in the Little Harbor sewer area, the area legally described as the second amended judgement area, were not connected to sewer. Homeowners have until July 1st to do so or everybody gets fined -the town, the homeowners. Everybody.
Who was supposed to be on top of this? The Selectmen – nope. Not the selectmen. The Sewer Commission? Guess not. The Board of Health that doesn’t haven’t money for stamps? Is this something for which we can blame now former town manager Mike Coughlin? Selectman Diane Kennedy tried to do that exact thing at Coughlin’s kangaroo trial. Afterwards, we learned that the Kennedy family, who live in the second amended judgement area had not even made an application to get on sewer.
So. Quigley brings to the attention of the board a tried and true management operations plan for our water/sewer plants. Hire an town engineer, give him/her back-up clerical. Turn water/sewer into an appointed advisory board. Other towns use this model – three different groups who were brought in to rescue us from ourselves have recommended the same. Scituate uses this model. Hull uses this model. It works. You don’t read about those towns screwing up in the newspapers.
How do the selectmen feel about the citizens’ petition? Fred Koed tried to knock it down a peg or two. He believes in elected water and sewer officials. And yet in 1994 Koed ran for water commission after the former elected water commission had failed in every respect to run Cohasset Water and ultimately resigned as commissioners as opposed to falling on their swords. Koed was the clean-up guy. He brought in an outside water management team for the first time in the history of the Town because water had failed miserably. Koed remembers the meetings that went until midnight and after midnight and so do I. But maybe if the town had its own engineer and a board comprised of professional citizen advisors, Koed wouldn’t have been learning how to run a water department during the wee hours of many mornings in 1994, 1995 and 1996. He wouldn’t have even been there.
A few years ago the elected water commission got in trouble again – big trouble, big debt. We will be paying that debt for the next 20 years.
Selectmen say they are worried about combining water and sewer and yet that is the very direction they are pointing. Milanoski says he would find it much easier to control water and sewer if we had one operator. In fact, Milanoski was about to put his own article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant until the selectmen nixed the same. Milanoski’s article sounded a little too much like Quigley’s article. Some members of the Governance committee pointed out the sameness at their meeting last week.
No. 3. Along comes Article 32 that asks TM to vote to authorize the Water commissioners to enter into a five-year contract with a Water System operator. We thought the RFP which went out was a 10-year contract. Peter DeCaprio, chair of the water commission, assured me that the article is legal, but I think not. How can citizens be warned of a 5-year contract and have it end up being a 10-year contract or more?
Milanoski assures us that Town Meeting will get to vote on the water operations contract award at town meeting – probably the adjourned session.
But I am not feeling very safe when I read the wording which follows:
To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Water Commissioners to negotiate and, with the approval of the Town Manager, enter into a five-year contract for the operation, maintenance and management of the Town’s waterworks on terms and conditions the Commissioners and Town Manager determine to be in the best interests of the Town*; and further to vote to authorize the Water Commissioners and Town Manager to lease any Town property under the care and custody of the Water Commissioners in connection with such contract for a term not to exceed (5) years;or take any action related thereto.
Article 32 asks Town Meeting to give up its rights to the water commissioners and the Town Manager. F. Roy Fitzsimmons and others are not going to like this.
After what has been revealed about predatory lending and sloppy documentation, would you sign the papers for a mortgage without reading them? Same thing goes for Cohasset Water. The forensic audit report Cohasset received last year that found records missing and sky-high unaccounted (not paid for) water should put Town Meeting on notice big time.
This article would remove Town Meeting (that’s YOU) from the process.
DeCaprio has some explaining to do. I am sure we will be hearing from him soon. Like maybe in the next five minutes.