3/31/2005

The Council and the Road Contract

Hi all, I think a lot more of us should have gone to the Council meeting last night. Apparently the contract with the State about the road takeover, came up and there was heated discussion about it. It looks like from sitting on the sidelines, that the Town Manager/Council is trying to make the TRUE cost of this fiasco disappear into the nether regions of the projected new budget for this coming fiscal year. What SHOULD happen here is that every single damn dime and penny to be spent on the maintenance and upkeep of the roads should be in a separate category. That way we will all have an accurate depiction of just what it is going to cost us. If we don't get it right this time, right now, I doubt very much the State will agree to re-negotiate it at a later date. They KNOW that they are getting the very best of this screwy deal! Name one other town in this totally crooked state that has this same deal?

And BTW,has the Town Manager recently taken a bunch of courses in the world of Finance? If not, where does she derive the power to assume to direct the machinations of the finance office. She has NO BUSINESS trying to RUN that Office! That's what the Finance Director was hired to do. And why was it that last night when Councilor Balser brought up a couple of 'suggestions' as to what 'might' be done in the finance office, She was accused of trying to "run the Finance Office" by our First Warden Jack Savoie? But when another councilor was asked to give a legal opinion, no one accused him of trying to take over the Town lawyers job? Why that little discrepancy Jack? I think you have let your job title go to your head. What happened to that down to earth guy that started out on the council a few years ago? Been swayed to someone else's way of thinking? You folks all need to put all your perceived differences aside while you sit in those seats and do what you were sent there to do! And while you are at it , rein in Mr Smith as far as the West Side Road housing complex is concerned. It doesn't look good for ANY of you from where I sit! TIFN Everett

18 comments:

Sam said...

I talked with my little brother that lived on BI full time the last 4-5 years and he said "Sam, these are little internal BI wars, and don't even think about getting involved." Wise words, I guess. I'll say the same thing I said on the BIB thingy, though, it sure looks wierd to folks from all over the country who are looking at your stuff on the Internet. I suppose that's what makes small towns so endearing and special. Why, my folks really liked a minister in Clinton, CT but then he ran off with the deacon's wife and there was a pretty good little war there too. This was about 1967 or so and we went Methodist after that. Even as a kid, I new better than to say anything about the incident. And if you hear a real loud noise, duck! -Sam

Anonymous said...

This is crazy! Every penny that the roads costs us should be counted. How else are we to know whether this is a bad deal or not?

If it is a bad deal they are going to try and hide it because the people at the town hall, in thier infinite wisdom, can never be wrong.

This lack of transparecy is amazing. Do you think the town manager is going to admit that she messed this deal up??? No way!

Sam said...

My impression from years in state govenment is that money comes in different colors. State money was one color. Federal money was another. You got audited every year to make sure they were kept separate. Commingling funds does not mean people are doing something bad, it just means you lost track of the different colors of money because it's all green now. I am a beleiver in a line item budget, myself, especially if state highway funds are being sent for local use. Talk about needing "pooled resources" and "funding flexibility" always makes me a little nervous. Let's go back to the good old Yankee system were each line item has cash, payout, and balance. You can do it with parchment and whale oil ink or a simple spreadsheet like Excel - but what's the deal spending a hundred grand on an old DOS system? Now I'll be fair, DOS could work but it is a little like foregoing electricity and propane and fuel oil so you can enjoy the benefits of a nice, black, pot-belly stove. [I'm not doing a good job being funny here, am I?] What's next, a 1932 Bucyrus Erie steam-powered shovel to complete the High Street job? Everett, wouldn't you like one of these puppies to impress the grandkids?
http://members.tripod.com/dsmdonaldson/id59.htm

But truth in accounting is a sensitive subject and an annual audit report by an independent firm is absolutely essential. -Sam

Verna L. said...

Voters let your voices be heard! (especially at the Financial Town Meeting)

If you attended the budget hearing on 3/30/05 you will know where this tirade is going. I have been going to council meetings for the past 14 plus years and the actions of the council at this meeting has to be one of the top ten on my "DISGUSTED LIST"

I will start off with a little background. We have a town mamager,who is a lawyer with no experience in managing or finance before coming to B.I.,one councilor who is a sheetrock and plasterer, one who runs a book store and is a part time chef, one in the construction business, one who is a privacy lawyer, and one who has spent the past 40 years managing and in finance.

I have listened to many financial reports over the years and up until this year I very seldom ever heard a council member ask serious questions about the reports or the budgets. After the retirement of our finance director in the year 2000, we very seldom had a financial report and when we did it was riddled with mistakes and mis-postings. The previous councils never asked if the corrections were ever made or seemed
concerned that we weren't getting monthly reports. I would ask and was always given some lame excuse.

Now we are getting monthly reports and questions are being asked. There are also questions being asked about the up coming budget with suggestions to correct the mistakes of our previous finance director. The big bone of contention at the 3/30/05 meeting was the way the contract for the state road was being presented. I wasn't in favor of the town taking over this responsibility in the first place and as a taxpayer I want to see all of the expenses for the work on the state roads kept completely separate from the work done on local roads. That means everything! Separating all labor, benefits, gas/oil, road materials, repair and maintenance of the facility and snow removal. I don't want to hear that it can't be done. If it can't be done, we shouldn't have taken on this project in the first place! This part of the budget should also list the income we get form the state to cover this expense so we can see that the town is not subsidizing the state roads.

When this subject was brought up by councilor Balser and she made suggestions on how to correct the report, she was accused by our first warden, of trying to run the finance department. I have heard councilors make suggestions to the town manager as well as department heads in the town and it was never an issue. Why should a councilor (lawyer) be able to give a legal opinion with no hint of wrong doing , while a councilor(in finance) giving a financial opinion is publicly chastised? It makes me wonder , what is the real problem? It seems to me that the council should take a hard look at itself and ask the question, who are they really serving? Put the personality conflicts aside and do the job they were elected to do, look out for the best interest of the town. Respect and use the resources you have available. We have a councilor that brought our town finances from the "DARK AGES" to a state of the art operation.I have heard comments from state officials saying that we had one of the best, if not the best, finance department in the state and we should not change anything. Those comments were before councilor Balser retired as finance director. We now have new a finance director who is young, bright and very capable of doing a good job. The only one in the service of the town who is qualified to give any help or suggestions in the area of finance is our former finance director(councilor Balser) and that would cost the town nothing. As a taxpayer , what makes sense to you?

Now I say to you, listen carefully at the financial town meeting. Pay attention to the people who know what they are talking about, then vote.

Amy Dodge said...

Each and every week, I read the Block Island Times. I also log on to this website, to read your own rationalization of the problems you have with the local town government. I realize that the state and town road issue is quite a hot topic of discussion on the island - it was last year during the time of the takeover and it appears to be a hot topic again with the creation of the 2006 Budget. As for your comment, Mr. Littlefield, about the current town manager trying to run the finance department, I was a little taken aback. Although I was not present at the meeting but the mere suggestion of leaving the money alone, rather than separate it, does not sound to me at all like someone trying to run another department! I looked at it as a mere suggestion to keep the budget in tact and allow the citizens of Block Island to vote on the budget they were used to seeing. If in your opinion, mere suggestions constitute running another's department, we could accuse you of trying to take over the world couldn't we? And as for all of you annonymous writers, who have such a problem and an issue with the way the local government in run on Block Island, why don't you stand up and identif yourself rather than hide behind the annonymity? And as for those of you who continually bitch and complain week after week about the council and the town manager, I pose one question to you - if its such an easy job in your words, why don't you do it?

blockislandblog said...

Dear Amy,
I am sure you have a hard time hearing criticism about your Mom. But try and remember, people aren't criticizing Nancy Dodge, Amy's Mom, they are criticizing Nancy Dodge, Town Manager.
Your mother has taken on a job that requires, as part of the job description, a tough skin. When you are accountable to several thousand taxpayers, you are going to have critics. It doesn't matter how good of a job you do.
It is the right and responsibility of every taxpayer to ask questions about the government. It is also the responsibility and requirement of every government to respond to those questions honestly and as thoroughly as is requested.
Civil servants work for the taxpayer, and as such, will from time to time get feedback from their employer, the town at large.
Don't take it to heart.
Your mother is a tough lady with a tough job. She will never make everyone happy.

If the questions asked get answered, there shouldn't be as many problems.

Put yourself in the shoes of those who feel they have important questions to ask, constantly rebuffed, and made to feel as though they are wasting everyones' time.

I have not been to any of the meetings. But I do know that we have taken on a responsibility from the State, and it would be smart to ascertain whether it will cost us money in the future now, as opposed to later, when the bill is due and the State doesn't have to pay it.
It's common sense that it should be seperated from the town crews regular jobs. Just for the sake of evaluation.
I would imagine it could be as simple as assigning days of the week for town jobs and state work. It's not as though the crew drives around haphazardly, choosing jobs at whim. They most likely have a plan for the week.
It's a much simpler request than everyone seems to think. I have worked on jobs where I was required to block my hours by where I worked (location). It takes 5 minutes a day tops.
Everyone has to get over this MJ thing. She is a smart lady, why not accept her advice, say "thank you for your input, we'll make a note of that," take the advice or not and move on.
BIB

Everett said...

Hi Amy, I didn't make the comment I did based on only one bit of "direction" by the TM. Everybody in the Town Hall, The Councilors, and a lot of the public, have known for some time that during the reign of the previous Finance Director, The TM was directing her on a regular basis where to put money, how to disburse it, many "other mere suggestions" on how things should occur in the finance department.In actuality(sp) it may have been a good thing at the time, considering the total mess the towns finances are in, or were at the time of her departure. I have NO problems with Mrs. Dodge as a person, but do have misgivings about where the town is headed under her direction.TIFN Everett

Anonymous said...

Must be hard for the TM's daughter to read what has been the growing trend since 2000... a steady downturn of town finances and direction under the supervision of Mrs. Dodge. As I understand Amy is a lawyer, and I ask this - is a lawyer the best for the job? What skills, financial knowhow, and personnel management did Mrs. Dodge bring? Since her hiring we lost the most competent financial department we've ever had, hired another treasurer that was clearly an idiot, the Town employees have no contract, numerous projects underfinanced and behind schedule... where is her leadership? why doesn't she take a public stand and shut Bob Smith up on the project he's trying to squash? Because Mrs. Balser is involved? Mrs. Dodge may be a good lawyer, I don't know, and she may be a good individual, I don't know, but she is a lousy Town Manager - what she has is the last name 'Dodge'.

I go to meetings and follow where this Town was and where it is going... this is strickly a comparison to previous administrations, and it's dismal. I ask, what has this Town Manger done that has positively moved this Town ahead, where and what is the track record of her accomplishments? I remember a time when TM's were held accountable... this group of councilmen are simple cowards when it comes to holding a the highest paid town employee accountable.

Everette - next BLOG - what has the the TM and TC done lately?

The Road budget should be seperated out into line items identifying state and town money. This is responsible fiscal mangement... and councilmen wanting to 'hide' it is truely unsettling. The TM is allowed to 'run' departments... what I find interesting is she doesn't have a solid fiscal reason why not to seperate the road budgets... I bet if Mr. Connelly, Mr. Sisto, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Savoie suggested the change it would happen. But when the only person qualified to make the suggestion ( Mrs. Balser) requests it - must be bad! People to proud to admit they are wrong or to proud to admit ignorance do not belong as leaders of any Town. We have both.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading this so called blog for some time now and have taken great pleasure in reading the postings of our so called stand up citizens. What I can gather from reading Everett's blog is that the whole town is going down the drain and that we all might as well sell off the island to Disney and move to Costa Rica with the rest of the surfing crowd. Lets all take a step back and look at this realistically. The Town Manager has done a fine job thus far. She is a woman of great character who has nothing but the isalnd's best interest in mind. Anyone who thinks she is TM because of the name Dodge alone is clearly ignorant of her talents. Before serving as TM she was the town's solicitor for many years. We went out and found her. Not the other way around. Mary Jane Balser has done a fine job so far. She is not, as the Littlefields would like us to believe the infallible superwoman they make her out to be. I mean come on Everett, why noth rename the site www.WELOVEMARYJANE.COM. Amy Lewis is going to be an outstanding finance director. Give her time to get settled. None of us have ever had to walk in the shoes of the town manager. It is a thankless job that takes great courage and fortitude to persevere through. Sites like this only add fuel to the neverending fire. Everyone in cyberspace gets a chance to play monday morning quaterback. Not only can we all do the job better. We can all do it better without even going to the meetings to hear whats actually being said. Block Island has never been in a better position than it is today. A booming tourism economy, a beautiful place for kids, and a wonderful small tight community. To all the detractors of our TM and TC, take a moment to see the good instead of constantly trying to scrape up the bad. If someone from another town read these postings they would think that the town funds were being embezzled to Halliburton the way you people are describing things. Thank you for taking the time to read a posting from an embarrassed neighbor.

Sam said...

Well there is always two sides to any story, and I've talked with Nancy on the phone before (I really blasted the ferryboat issue last year) and she seemed to be the nicest person in the world. Perhaps the Littlefields and Dodges are like the Hatfields and McCoys? Well let's set all that aside, or I'll sick Tom Delay on you. Yes, that's right, he's become a major source of embarassment to us folks in Texas and we thought sending him to Washington would keep him out of our faces. Not so. He needs to be king of a small island or a former Russian republic.

You do know you're living in paradise, right? Pinch yourselves, folks, you're there and we're not!
Sam

Everett said...

To Anon. Wens. 12:06 pm I don't believe that I called for the selling out to the Disney folks, or moving to Costa Rica. Sounds as though you have a problem with those that do go there.

I also do believe that if you go back and read all the posts from the very beginning you will find no concerted attempt at 'character assination' of the TM by ME!

Except for the one time, in one post that I put out some info about MJ Balser, I don't think you will find any other instances of me "extolling the virtues" or the making out of her to be an "infallible superwoman"! Those were your words, not mine. You apparently read a lot more into these posts than is really there. Over the years, she and I have screamed at each other like 'fishwives' ( aahh-- am I in trouble for using that analogy?) over things that we do and did not agree on!

No one that I know of has pointed any fingers at Amy Lewis for any reason! Although you have made it sound as though I did. So lets just keep her out of this.

I really don't believe that ANYWHERE in the posts put up by me,that you can even infer that I claimed 'embezzlement' was going on! Mis-management and mis-direction were the aim of anything I said.

And to Sam, NO,we are not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Never were, never will be! This is strictly one persons, mine, perception of anothers managerial style. I have absolutely NO ANAMOSITY toward the TM on a personal level. And I am NOT trying to "IMPOSE" my ides on anybody, unlike some others! I'm putting info out there for anybody to read and comment on! If they don't like it SO BE IT. If they want to whale away on me, verbally only, feel free. I doubt that I have changed the opinion of a single person who has read any of this stuff. Most if not all, have made their decisions previously. I beleive in 'free will' and the ability of the individual to think FOR THEMSELVES! And BTW, what rock did you guys let old Tom Delay escape from under? No thanks we don't him, as WE have a KENNEDY! And a wishy-washy Chaffee. And As a topper, The Prince of Providence, Buddy C.!!! TFIN Everett

The palsters wife said...

As far as your top ten "disgusted List", Verna, why don't you try to put in 60 or so hours a week as a volunteer. (about 3.00 per hour) I know thats about what Jack does. Thats basically what the TC is, Volunteers! They all work hard to keep family's together, pay the bills and keep up the everyday lives, and at the end, all they get is a bunch of crap for it.
To be put down like that, because he's just a "plasterer" doesn't mean he doesn't know what he's doing. He has run many meetings in his life, sewer, water, health serv, and know the TC. If you think we need "experts" to be on the hot seat, why not go out and get some people together for your next election, cause your going to need them...Better yet, why not have yourself and Everett, since you all seem to now exactly what's going on. Then you, your husband and MJ can run the show, so we can all see how it's done.

Everett said...

Hi Mrs. Plasterer, You missed the point of having the occupations of the TC listed in that letter. It WAS NOT to "put them down" nor to denigrate the the time and effort that they put into the job! The point was, that of the five of them, there is ONLY one who has spent a lifetime in the area of expertise that she, MJ, commented and made suggestions on. She was then chastised, publicly I might add, for "trying to run the finance department"! When other members make suggestions out of their area of knowledge, no one 'puts them down' for doing that. Why was it allowed to happen in this particular instance?
If you re-read the letter you will find no instances of anyone stating that we should have "experts" running the town. THAT would be a disaster! The rest of it also stated nothing but facts that the general public has little to no knowledge about. I have had two contractors approach me in the last few days to say that if the TM cannot figure out how to seperate the town roads from the State roads, budget and pay wise, have her come to them as they do this on a regular basis and it involves not much more that a time clock and cards!
I don't recall ever setting myself up to be the "end all, know it all" salvation of the Town or its problems. That is your perception. All this web log has done is put information out there for people to comment on. I don't see how you can extrapolate from that, that I or Verna have any wish to "run" the town in cahoots with MJ Balser. If you and and everyone else, myself included, attended these meetings, you would also have a myriad of questions that needed answers! Thanks fo taking the time to read this, I hope!

Anonymous said...

The Plasterer's wife isn't the only one who read that as a slam on the other council members. Maybe Mrs. Blog should be more careful next time.

verna said...

I can't understand why listing the background of council members is considered a "slam" in any way, shape or form. I wouldn't ask someone in finance how to sheetrock or plaster a house or how to litigate a court case or even how to build a house. The councilors all have areas which they have experience and expertise and I was just trying to point that out.

I just couldn't understand why a councilor was PUBICLY chastised for giving an opinion on how to correct a problem that is in the parameters of her expertise.

If anyone took this as a slam I am sorry. I was just stating facts.

As far as volunteer service, many of us have volunteered thousands of hours to this community and I commend every one for their time and
efforts. This community could not survive without these selfless people.

Anonymous said...

I was glad to see, in this week's paper, that even Dr. Baute agrees with me. It was unkind to degrade the council members by lising them by thier occupations. They were all elected by the voters of New Shoreham and they hold an equal position on the council.

As for the matter of the Road Contract (the title of this Blog entry), if you were to speak with Mike Shea on the matter you would find him in control of the situation. He has a very hard working crew and he is very organized. The stone walls they have worked on look fantastic. They have already swept the roads of winter sand and debris (the old state crew used to get to that by June).

Maybe they should put Mike and his crew in charge of the High Street project.

catt said...

to anonymus- Sunday the 24th at 8:42 am.

Could you tell us what is so degrading about the occupations of the council members. I think they are all jobs that are very necessary and vital to our community. Do you or Dr. Baute have a problem with hard working people? I guess I must have just read a different letter.

Anonymous said...

It is degrading, Catt, because we are all multi-faceted human beings. Every one of us, especially those of us who live on Block Island, wear many hats. We have varied interests and hobbies and not one of us would like to be defined by one role.

Verna reduced each one of our elected council members down to their occupation in a manner that was not flatering, but insulting.

It was a poor choice on her part as most people I have spoken with understood it the way I did. I understand how you could have read it differently but think you should look at it the other way as well.

Verna would not be pleased to be known as the "gas-lady" or the "curlers lady" or the "bloggers wife."

It's a small place, we should all be more mindful of our place in it.