Live-blogging the April meeting of the Town Council

I’m watching the livestream of this evening’s Town Council meeting all the way from central Indiana (thanks GCTV!), joining a bit late due to family obligations. See below for updates…

Public comment

  • I’m joining in the midst of Public Comment, and here’s DPW Don Ouillette defending his record on the number of trees that have been planted during his tenure.
  • Commenter talking about the benefits of C-PACE, a financing program for renewable energy.
  • An actual GHS student speaking about the SRO program expansion proposal—Spend the money on helping the kids feel connected and have a sense of community, not on more police.
  • Another GHS student, also against SRO expansion.
  • School Committee Chair Adrienne Nunez asking the Council to restore the 1% that was cut from the FY2018 budget.
  • Public comments closed, on to a public hearing on a whole pile of capital and operating budget stuff.

Public hearing – Capital & Operating budget

  • Fire fighter and union president: Fire Dept. payroll has declined since FY2016 while all other departments’ payroll have increased an average of 12%; some harsh words for Mayor Martin here—requesting Council censure the Mayor.
  • School Committee Chair Nunez speaking in a personal capacity (not for the School Committee), requesting that SRO expansion dollars be shifted over to the School budget.

Communications from the Mayor, town officers, etc.

  • Mayor: “If you support new growth and development for Greenfield, you have to vote to support C-PACE.”
  • Also characterizes GCET as his pet project, which is very successful but also barely solvent. Says we will have to invest in this once, twice, maybe more, but it will be great for Greenfield.
  • DPW Director is up now… currently defending his request for a new mini-excavator, with questions coming from Councilor Allis.
  • C-PACE sounds like an interesting idea, but potentially hung up in lobbyist hell? Hard to say for sure, as this is the first I’ve run into it.

Communications from GCET Director

  • John Lunt addressing the April 16 outage.
  • Outage began at 6:07p, first notification went out at 6:33p? That seems like a big gap to me.
  • Seventh month in a row of double-digit subscriber growth. Will take over providing internet service to the town this month.
  • Lunt speaking now to the GCET capital request—”I can’t promise you I won’t ask you for more money, but I can promise you I won’t ask you for more money without a plan… there is a plan, it’s called a budget.” Seems like some strong feelings here.
  • The money they’re asking for ($195k) would be coming from within the GCET enterprise fund.
  • Councillor Mass asking how much GCET has received from Community Development Block Grant… I missed the exact number, but I think it was around $200k-ish. Lunt: “I’ll never apologize for successfully getting grants.”

Communications from the Superintendent and the School Committee

  • Superintendent Harper points out that funding for security measures like swipe cards, fence repairs, and data security have not been funded in the Mayor’s FY2019 budget.
  • If nothing else, this discussion about School Resource Officers is bringing up some really interesting points around what we as a community think our priorities should be.
  • Councillor Sund asking how we can get students to trust police officers more. Supt. Harper providing a diplomatic response.
  • Councillor Mass asks how they would use $101k if the Council put it back into the operating budget. Harper: preserving teacher jobs, adding for enrollment. Mass’s follow-up is what would be the practical difference between the $101k and the additional $114k that could come out of the Police Dept. budget.
  • This business about dropping Math & Science Academy enrollments is news to me.

Public hearing and communications items are done. Motions, orders, and resolutions up next, following a 10-minute break.

Motions, Orders, & Resolutions

  • First item: Overriding the Mayor’s veto of Silvercrest Lane and Circle. This one passes.
  • All the appointment approvals just got lumped into a single vote. No discussion, motion passes.
  • On to Greenfield’s participation in PACE (unanimous positive recommendation from Economic Development Council); passes unanimously.
  • “CJBW Stamp, LLC or an Affiliate” – I have literally no idea what this is, but it passes.
  • $80k for an anaerobic digester study…
    • split recommendation from the committee (3 positive, 2 negative) to reduce it to $60k, looking for other interested parties to kick in the rest of the money.
    • Councillor Mass moves to amend to $60k.
    • Amendment passes unanimously.
    • Motion passes unanimously.
  • $120,000 for a Camera System for Police Cruisers and Station
    • Unanimous positive recommendation from the committee
    • Councillor Mass looking to insert language allowing extra money be applied to purchase of body cameras. Amend to add words “and/or body cameras.” Councillor Stempel says it is an unnecessary amendment.
    • Amendment passes.
    • Councillor Dolan wants to know why the “experiment that happened a few years ago” didn’t finish and what happened to the funding, will not support this motion without a system in place to make sure footage is not tampered with or lost. Councillor Mass pushing back on both.
    • Motion passes.
  • $195,000 for GCET Telecommunications Equipment
    • Four positive recommendations from committee, one abstention
    • Councillor Mass wants to table. 1) Taxpayer money being used to subsidize a user fund ($283k of CDBG). 2) Town staff time being used to support GCET. 3) Unemployment benefits generated by GCET layoffs being billed to the town, not GCET. Wants a memorandum of understanding from the GCET commissioners that the money will be paid back before he can support this motion.
    • Councillor Stempel: A vote no on this is a vote of no confidence in GCET.
    • Councillor Allis: He was the abstention in committee. If there’s a deficit in enterprise funds, the taxpayers have to pay those deficits. Wants to sit down and talk with GCET Director Lund, doesn’t believe that tabling it for a month will be a big deal.
    • Things are getting a bit testy around this topic.
    • Councillor Mass moves to table (nondebatable). Motion passes, broader motion is tabled.
  • $75,000 for the Green River Sand Filter Beds
    • 3 positive, 2 negative vote in committee
    • Councillor Allis wants to have a serious look at the management of the water and sewer enterprise funds, will vote no on all motions related to water and sewer until he gets a straight answer.
    • Councillor Stempel – This is all about deferred maintenance.
    • Extended back-and-forth between multiple councilors ensues.
    • Motion passes.
  • $80,000 for the replacement of Guard Rails
    • Councilor Mass moves to reduce the amount to $30k; the numbers have been all over the map and the DPW doesn’t have the people to do $80k worth of guardrails anyway.
    • All of these folks are looking very tired, and it makes me wonder how you can run a government like this.
    • Councilor Stempel points out that the number of people the DPW has to do the work isn’t really an argument because it’s contractor work.
    • Amendment passes.
    • Amended motion (appropriating $30k) passes.

And on that note, apologies folks, but I have to cut things off here.  Once the recorded video of the meeting is available, I will watch the rest and provide a summary.

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