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Friday, January 5, 2018

Flashback! The Great Divide

The Great Divide


It seems that the latest town meeting is yet another example of our need to update our method of governing. 40 people show up. Elected officials unprepared, lacking required info, reports MIA and anyone held accountable?

We need change, but shuffling different people through the same disfunctional system doesn't work.

Just think about it. The same folks who couldn't manage a town report are managing to spend what $55,000,000 of borrowed money when we have no concept of our finances now!

From the past

The Great Divide
In my opinion, Chapter 93 Acts of 2000, created the great divide within the Town of Templeton. Please review the information below:
Information Regarding
Chapter 93 Acts of 2000
Letter to Water Customers – 23 % increase for FY 14…more increases planned to pay for prior projects that have been bonded for 40 years
Tighe & Bond Water Rate Study – no new capital improvements listed. Where is the capital improvement plan? Why weren’t the 60 year-old water mains on Baldwinville Rd replaced BEFORE Baldwinville Rd was repaved?
Water Financial Statements – page 2 “We have audited the accompanying statements of net assets of the Templeton, Massachusetts, Municipal Water Department (an enterprise fund of the Town of Templeton, Massachusetts)…

Return of Money to Casella from Water Department
On November 13, 2008 a check was made out to Casella Waste Systems in the amount of $369,681.40.  This “settlement” was never brought before town meeting even though it is significantly more than $1,000. (See Bylaw Article VII – Legal Affairs section 2)
The invoice itemizes the total as $142,671.47 from account 29-3-350-000 (FB Zone 2 Delineation Water department) and $227,009.93 from account 63-3-300-000 (Landfill Enterprise Account). There was no explanation of how the water department came by this money from Casella. There is no record of a town meeting vote giving any money to the water department for the Zone II delineation.
Now in December 2013 water rates have increased 23%...because there isn’t enough money to run the water department.
Timeline for Chapter 93 Acts of 2000
Transfer of water department operations to Light department
July 6, 1999 Light Department minutes.
August 3, 1999 Light Department minutes . Sean Hamilton states the merger of Water with light will be beneficial for Sewer department.
August 16, 1999 Water meeting (BOS)
September 7,1999 Light Department minutes.  Reference is made to a negative letter from Chris Ryan(town coordinator at that time). “A motion was made by Sean Hamilton, seconded by Dana Blais and unanimously voted to have Attorney Jack Ferriter review the proposal and draft a legal petition for insertion in the town warrant or town ballot.” In my opinion this is where this proposal to merge water with light goes from a friendly merger to a hostile takeover.
October 5, 1999 Light Department minutes.
November 2, 1999 Light Department minutes.
November 15, 1999 Water minutes (BOS)
December 7, 1999 Light Department minutes. On page 3 of these minutes is a reference to PCBs in the river near the wells of the water system of which the Light department is trying to take control. Gregg Edwards is listed as a commissioner.
December 20, 1999 Water meeting (BOS)
January 10, 2000 Light Department minutes.
February 1, 2000 Light Department minutes.
February 14, 2000 Water meeting (BOS)
February 22, 2000 Water meeting (BOS)
March 7, 2000 Light Department minutes.
Meeting attendance 84 total. 39 voters from Precinct A. 45 voters from Precinct B. the warrant article to merge water with light passes Town meeting.
Timeline Continued
April 4, 2000 Light Department minutes. Discussion of letter from Attorney John Ferriter regarding  how to operate the water enterprise fund. “Presently the Selectmen submit articles for any repairs or projects which is not necessary.”  Bottom of page 1.
May 2, 2000 Light Department minutes. Page 2 “ The manager [Mr. Skelton] told the Commissioners that if the merger takes place we will have some serious work to return the Water Department to a viable entity of the Town. The Commissioners agreed but felt it can be accomplished.”
June 6, 2000 Light Department minutes. Discussion of ballot election for merger of light and water now that the special legislation is approved.
June 20, 2000. Light Department minutes.
July 3, 2000 Light Department minutes. Ballot election set for September 12, 2000.
August 8, 2000 Light Department minutes.
September 5, 2000 Light Department minutes. Check out “Other Business”. Then go back and read the paragraph beginning…” The Commissioners and the Manager discussed a water meeting they attended at the selectmen’s office.”
September 11, 2000 Light Department minutes. “The Manager received a phone call from the Town clerk informing the Light Department that the vote merge the Light and Water Departments passed by a vote of 230 in favor and 83 against.”  Departments to merge on January 9, 2001.
The Light department paid for the ballot election to merge the Light and Water departments. Schedule of Payments to Treasurer.
October 3, 2000 Light Department minutes.
October 30, 2000 Light Department minutes open session. Advertise for a water superintendent.
Timeline Continued
October 30, 2000 Light Department minutes executive session. In my opinion this is where the management structure of the Light and Water department becomes unsustainable. Organizational structure – An Electrical Superintendent, A Water Superintendent and the Manager oversees it all. Old structure before “hostile takeover” one person – Harry Aldrich was the Highway Superintendent, Water Superintendent and Sewer Superintendent. Bruce Evans operated the treatment plant.
November 7, 2000 Light Department minutes open session. On page 2, “The Manager updated the Commissioners in regard to meeting he attended with the Sewer Commissioners to discuss the sewer billings and how the information would flow from department to department.”  On page 3 the Commissioners vote themselves a raise.
November 7, 2000. Light Department minutes executive session. Everyone gets a raise! Not even legally in charge of the water department.
December 5, 2000. Light Department minutes. On page 2, …”The sewer commissioners voted to contribute $25,000 toward phase I which is the replacement of 200 water meters that are presently in stock at the Highway department.”
January 2, 2001. Light Department minutes.
Other Supporting Documents
Legal invoices paid by the light department to take over water department.
“Citizen Petition” signature sheets gathered by the Light department to call for a special town meeting to request special legislation to merge water department with the light department.
A Letter from the Inspector General, Gregory Sullivan, dated December 6, 2007 promoting “accountability and responsibility in our public utilities.” 
There is a lot of information to review.
Pointing out the reasons for the Great Divide in Templeton is not a vendetta. It is an explanation of why good governance is difficult to achieve in Templeton. There are at least two different governments in Templeton -the rules and regulations for TMLWP and the rules and regulations for the rest of the town.
Recently a citizen from Orchard Lane came before the BOS to request their road to be repaired. Orchard Lane is a mess as are many roads in Templeton. As stated above:
Tighe & Bond Water Rate Study – no new capital improvements listed. Where is the capital improvement plan? Why weren’t the 60 year-old water mains on Baldwinville Rd replaced BEFORE Baldwinville Rd was repaved?”
The BOS has no access to the capital improvement plan for the water department. The BOS does have authority over Chapter 90 money and can make decisions on which roads to repair. The question remains: How do you know which roads to repair when you don’t know which water mains may or may not be replaced by the water department?
When there is a water main break, the water department should follow the procedures set forth in the Highway Road Access Permit when they contract out to repair water main breaks.The water department does not follow procedures set forth in the Highway Road Access Permit process. After a water main break, the roads deteriorate quickly.
Before the Great Divide, when the water department was part of the Town of Templeton, the highway and the water department were one in the same. The BOS could vote to repair a road using Chapter 90 money and if the water mains needed to be replaced, they were replaced. Now, if the BOS vote to repair a road using Chapter 90 money, the water mains are not replaced (Baldwinville Rd[Federal money TIP program], Sawyer St.), the Highway Road Access Permit procedures are not followed so the newly repaired roads are at great risk of being torn up to replace broken water mains.
Chapter 90 money will only go so far. The rule of thumb is it costs $1 million dollars to repair a mile of road.  Templeton has many miles of bad roads. If Chapter 90 money is diverted to pay for a piece of equipment, there is less Chapter 90 money to repair roads. If the equipment is not purchased, the roads can’t get repaired. On the state level, Chapter 90 money has been held hostage to political whims. There have been years when Chapter 90 money has not been released until late summer- well into the construction season.
In my opinion, the only way to reunite the Town is to repeal Chapter 93 Acts of 2000.We can't control the political whims on the state level. We can take back control of our town. Please support the override on May 5th.
My opinions…supported by FACTS ! ! !
Julie Farrell
Letter from The Inspector General to TMLWP

Inspector general requests numerous Holyoke Gas & Electric records; city says similar inquiries taking place at 'all' municipal light departments in state
  on September 15, 2016 at 3:30 PM, updated September 15, 2016 at 3:36 PM
HOLYOKE — A probe by the state inspector general of Holyoke Gas & Electric that began six weeks ago, according to the HG&E, targets not just them, but "all" municipal light departments in Massachusetts.

The office of the inspector general was created in 1981 with a mandate to "prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse in the expenditure of public funds," according to the agency's website.

"The office conducts investigations, intervenes in situations before fraud and waste occurs, disseminates lessons and best practices, and builds the capacity of public officials by providing technical training and assistance," the website states.

Back in April, the IG began reviewing South Hadley Electric Light Department documents prompted by concerns that former SHELD manager Wayne Doerpholz felt he was entitled to collect nearly $500,000 in accrued leave from the agency. 

A letter Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha made public June 1 said Doerpholz had "exceeded his authority and violated his duties to the board and the ratepayers." The agency determined that the ex-SHELD manager was owed only about $15,000. Doerpholz's employment ended on May 31.

Holyoke Gas & Electric on Tuesday provided The Republican with a letter it received from the IG dated July 28. In it, the IG requested numerous documents and communications that include any payouts to employees exceeding $5,000 in the past six years, department operations and personnel policies, accrued leave balances of employees, collective bargaining agreements with staff, and the three most recent audited financial statements.

Contacted on Tuesday, a spokesman for the IG said the agency does not confirm or deny whether it is conducting an investigation and declined to comment.
“Concealment, alteration, destruction or mutilation of any responsive document may constitute a criminal violation." 
Along with the IG letter, Holyoke Gas & Electric told the newspaper it is their "understanding this request for information letter was mailed to all" of the "electric light departments in Massachusetts."
There are 50 municipally owned electric utilities operating in the state.

Besides Holyoke and South Hadley, other Western Massachusetts municipal light departments are in Chester, Chicopee, Russell and Westfield.

Among the documents the IG requested from Holyoke Gas & Electric:
  • A list of all current employees, their salaries, titles and years employed
  • Names and titles of any employees with more than 10 weeks of sick time accrued
  • Names and titles of any employees with more than 10 weeks of vacation balance
  • Any leave time payouts since July 1, 2010, exceeding $5,000
The IG letter states: "Please be advised that concealment, alteration, destruction or mutilation of any responsive document may constitute a criminal violation."

The letter indicates that the IG request for documents does not constitute an "official investigation."

"Please take all necessary and appropriate steps to insure that all relevant original documents are preserved and protected in the event that they are required as part of an official investigation."


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