LIVEBLOGGING: Greenfield Town Council, December 2018 monthly meeting

Assuming the shaky wifi here at Greenfield High School holds up, I will be live-blogging tonight’s meeting of the Greenfield Town Council.

The bandwidth here is terrible, so I’m having to update in larger batches…

7:08 PM – Meeting has been called to order. Proceeding to public comment.

7:10 PM – It is a relatively short list of folks signed up to speak during the public comment session.

7:18 PM – Steve Adam now speaking in support of the Board Of Health budget request. 19 new complaints logged at the Health Department with no one to take action on them.

7:26 PM – Representative from Just Roots speaking about a variety of activities around food distribution and asking for support of allocation of $25k of town money.

7:37 PM – Comments so far running roughly half in favor of the library project, half in support of funding the Health Department.

7:45 PM – Public comment session is done, on to public hearing on matching funds for Just Roots grant, borrowing authority for the library project, and a few other items.

Communications from the Mayor

  • Department of Revenue has accepted our 2019 tax rate, down slightly from last year.
  • Mayor Martin is now commenting on the Health Department situation. He’s blaming the Council for insulting the Health Department and driving off any viable qualified candidates because “they don’t trust Greenfield.”
  • The Mayor asserts that the suggestion that the library and safety complex costs would put Greenfield over its debt ceiling “is just not true.”
  • A somewhat rambling monologue from the Mayor right now, going on about economic development and cost-savings opportunities… I’m not sure this is a particularly productive use of time.
  • Questions from Town Council member Stempl regarding the developer of and next steps for the new hotel that is being planned for the former Roadway Inn site. It is planned to be a 90-room hotel, $14 million project. Mayor Martin: “It is expected to be highly occupied.” Apparently this is the same developer who worked with Wilsons a few years ago; that project didn’t move forward due to lack of tax credits.
  • Question from Town Council member Mayo about Mayor Martin’s assertions about revenue opportunities from energy savings. It is related to a solar farm project.
  • Town Council member Mass asking about when Greenfield might apply for state climate change project funding. The Mayor is doing some hand-waving about various projects. Mass asserting that Greenfield has not actually applied for the funds, Mayor will follow up.
  • Town Council member Mass now asking about what the Council needs to do to rescind TIFF approval for Bank Row building.
  • Town Council member Sund asking if there are anything clothing stores coming into Greenfield and if the Mayor can work on that. Mayor Martin: “That’s not my job.”
  • Town Council member Pyfrom asserts that Greenfield needs more affordable places to shop in order to foster economic development. Mayor Martin responds that it’s not the government’s job to go out and find those businesses, but rather to facilitate.
  • Town Council VP Ricketts: “I’m all set with dollar stores in this town,” reminds her fellow Council members that “it doesn’t work that way” to wish this store or that store would come here.
  • Mark Smith “We do have enough dollars today to hire a qualified health director.” Now some back-and-forth between Smith and Town Council member Allis about the specific budget numbers.

School Committee updates

  • Committee has entered negotiations with the teachers and with instructional assistants, reached agreement with cafeteria workers.
  • Policy review is ongoing.
  • School Committee has requests the Council support change to language regarding PA system.
  • Town Council member Mass notes that Middle School auditorium light repairs funded by the Council have not yet been completed. SC Chair Nunez says she thinks they should be completed shortly after the winter break.
  • A lot of mutual “appreciation” being expressed here.

Back to the Finance folks for library-specific questions

  • Town Council member Allis is now asking about assertions that Greenfield will be retiring debt at a rate sufficient to pick up the debt related to the new library project. Getting at whether the debt projections are accurate and also suggests that lower municipal debt does not negatively affect our bond rating.
  • Town Council member Wheeler pushes back on this assertion.
  • Some back-and-forth now from several Councillors and the library project manager about cost projections around both the library and the fire stations.
  • Town Council member Sund is now asking whether “people” raised $9 million, would there be any burden on “the town.” The library project manager is now trying to explain the structure of the grant and the debt. Town Council member Stempl is now trying to paraphrase Town Council member Sund’s question. Town Council member Sound is now saying… something.
  • Question from Town Council member Pyfrom about fundraising—how much has been raised so far. No specific answers, other than that $50k has been raised in the last week.
  • Town Council member Allis points out that we have drawn down our stabilization funds and are now talking about adding to our debt, suggesting that it will negatively impact our bond rating. He seems to be trying to draw the finance team into stating that “there will be absolutely no impact to our bond rating.”
  • Mayor Martin steps in, pointing out that Town Council member Allis is mischaracterizing the phrase “weak debt” in the S&P report on Greenfield; “weak debt” means the town has low debt, not that the debt is weak.
  • Town Council member Sund is still confused. He still does not seem to understand the basic structure of this proposal, apparently thinks that Greenfield is borrowing or allocating the full $19.4 million. Several strong statement in a row from Mayor Martin in response.
  • Question from Town Council member Pyfrom about whether there have been additional studies or estimates regarding the cost of rehabbing the existing library building.
  • Town Council member Mass asks whether tonight’s authorization can be made contingent upon meeting a fundraising goal. The answer is no.

Motion to restore funding for Health Department

  • Council votes to reconsider this motion; Town Council member Mass is the only no vote.
  • Town Council member Stempl amends total to $26,000ish, friendly amendments from Town Council members Mass and Wheeler accepted.
  • Amendment passes unanimously. On to the main motion…
  • Town Council member Mass now treating us to a history of this issue, a laundry list of his complaints about the Mayor.
  • Town Council member Gilmour, citing the amount of chaos around this issue, “If you don’t vote for this motion, I think you need to resign your seat.”
  • Now some rather defensive comments from Town Council member Allis about his involvement in previous Council discussions on this question.
  • Town Council VP Ricketts doesn’t want to take a walk down memory lane; let’s look at the information and get this vote done.
  • Town Council member Mayo moves to call the question; question is called.
  • Motion passes, Town Council member Mass votes no, but I believe the rest of the Council voted yes.

Motion to appropriate $25k from sale of town lands for Just Roots matching grant

Motion carries unanimously.

Motion for a grab-bag of appropriations for contracts

Motion carries unanimously.

Motion to authorize library borrowing authority

  • Town Council President Renaud asks that everyone have an opportunity to speak, but will hold everyone to the five-minute rule.
  • Town Council member Dolan acknowledges and thank everyone who is come out and has been involved in this discussions. Cites multiple data points showing clear and overwhelming support for this motion from the public. Will vote yes, encourages fellow Councillors to vote yes as well.
  • Town Council member Mayo describing his experience trying to get into the library while in a wheelchair.
  • Town Council member Pyfrom is “not ready to vote this vote tonight.” Looking out for the taxpayer, will be voting no tonight.
  • Town Council member Wheeler has a lot to say, will “say it in segments.” “I paid $4000 for a used car 3 years ago, I’ve put $12000 into it since then. I probably shoulda just bought a new car.”
  • Town Council member Stempl talks about her vision for Greenfield and how a new library fits into that. Talks about her experience with the middle school refurb project and restoring old houses. She will vote yes.
  • Town Council member Sund: “When I buy a car, I make sure I have the money to pay for it,” says he and his whole family live day-to-day. States that when disabled people want to read a book, “they get there.” He will vote no.
  • Town Council member Gilmour says she wants to table this motion, look into fundraising if that’s a big concern. Makes the motion to table, seconded.
  • Motion to table passes after much consternation.

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. Pete
    Your comments are insightful and humorous… in a situation that was none too funny. Thanks for doing this. Add me to your list of readers

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