While I have not yet had a chance to sift through how Municipal Light Plants work and why GCET was created as one, the other question I have been meaning to look into is what an Enterprise Fund is and what is required to create one.
Enterprise funds are established under Section 53F1/2 of Massachusetts General Law. Here is the paragraph that outlines the basic workings of such a fund:
Section 53F1/2. Notwithstanding the provisions of section fifty-three or any other provision of law to the contrary, a city or town which accepts the provisions of this section may establish a separate account classified as an ”Enterprise Fund”, for a utility, cable television public access, health care, recreational or transportation facility, and its operation, as the city or town may designate, hereinafter referred to as the enterprise. Such account shall be maintained by the treasurer, and all receipts, revenues and funds from any source derived from all activities of the enterprise shall be deposited in such separate account. The treasurer may invest the funds in such separate account in the manner authorized by sections fifty-five and fifty-five A of chapter forty-four. Any interest earned thereon shall be credited to and become part of such separate account. The books and records of the enterprise shall be maintained in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and in accordance with the requirements of section thirty-eight.
The Massachusetts Department Of Local Services provides a more plain-language summary of how Enterprise Funds work. The gist of it is that a town or city may establish one of these funds when it wants to provide a service (typically utilities like electricity, cable TV, trash collection, and the like). Funding such a service via an enterprise fund means it gets its own separate accounting and financial reporting from the general budget, but that these finances still remain public.
By my reckoning (amateur though it is), such a setup makes a lot more sense for something like GCET. I might go so far as to say that had GCET been created as an enterprise fund, many of the transparency and financial issues we have seen with it might have been avoided.
As for the law pertaining to the establish of the fund, here is what it says:
For the purposes of this section, acceptance in a city shall be by vote of the city council and approval of the mayor, in a town, by vote of a special or annual town meeting and in any other municipality by vote of the legislative body.
A city or town which has accepted the provisions of this section with respect to a designated enterprise may, in like manner, revoke its acceptance.
Given that Greenfield is a city, it would seem to me that no special election is required to change GCET to be an enterprise fund, although it is possible that I am missing something.
I have sent an email to Councilor Mass asking why he believes a special election would be required in addition to a vote by the Council.
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