WVN #553: New selectman majority exercises power
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The slate of candidates elected on April 1 lost no time in taking control of the chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of the Board of Selectmen.
Also in this newsletter:
-- An unusual public discussion of legal strategy as wastewater commissioners try to figure out who will pay for a new $5.6-million treatment plant at the Town Center.
-- Newspapers seek School Committee minutes.
NEW BOARD OF SELECTMEN OFFICERS
When the new Board met on April 17 for the first time, the first piece of business was to remove Tony Boschetto, who was vice-chairman and then became acting chairman after Doug Leard resigned for health reasons six months ago. Citing his leadership in those months, Boschetto said he would like to continue in the post.
Traditionally selectmen elect new officers annually, often moving the vice chairman to the top slot. Though the leadership titles confer no legal authority, the chairman exercises considerable influence as spokesman and agenda-setter.
During 25 minutes of discussion about the leadership posts, the selectmen expressed respect for each other. But when newcomer Cherry Karlson moved to appoint Nolan chairman, and then when Nolan moved to appoint Karlson as vice-chairman, the outcome was clear. Newly-elected Mary Antes spoke in favor of both.
The combination of Nolan, Karlson and Antes -- names linked on pre-election campaign signs -- are able to prevail over Boschetto and Ed Collins.
Before the vice-chairmanship was discussed, Boschetto asked to be considered for that post. Collins spoke in favor of Boschetto as a source of continuity who had done well during challenging months.
Nolan asserted more than once that “none of this is personal,” but he referred again indirectly to Boschetto and “the way Mr. Turkington was dismissed” as town administrator last summer. Boschetto introduced the successful motion to terminate the controversial Fred Turkington’s contract.
Despite the talk of reconciliation, collaboration and respect for colleagues, it was Nolan who was interrupted by moderators twice during televised campaign events for personal attacks on an opponent. Karlson signed inflammatory attacks in the Wayland Town Crier on Boschetto and others over Turkington’s departure. The dismissal was seen as a major factor during a campaign in which everybody acknowledged divisiveness as a problem.
The recent election restored power to selectmen majorities who had run the town for the decade when the Town Center project evolved. During much of that time the Board of Selectmen was known for quarreling with other boards and accused of a “my way or the highway” attitude.
The night he was re-elected, Nolan said, “I’m thrilled that we can put the politics and rhetoric behind us and we’re ready to move on. It’s about Wayland working together and going forward.”
Time will tell whether politics is put aside.
See WayCAM, elapsed time 00:12:50:
-- WVN Staff
PUBLIC DISCUSSION OF LITIGATION STRATEGY
At its April 16 meeting, the Wastewater Management District Commission (WWMDC) heard from its newest legal counsel, Damon Seligson. When deciding to hire professional support staff for the enterprise, the commissioners said they were looking to Seligson to ensure they acted lawfully as they make decisions about applying one-time betterment fees or continuing with surcharges to cover the cost of borrowing over $5 million for the wastewater treatment plant.
The meeting began with public comment from Kurt Fliegauf, the attorney representing a number of the plant’s smaller users, such as condo and business owners. An unusual 90-minute public discussion of litigation strategy played out, with Commissioner Sam Potter engaging the public.
WayCAM’s recording is at:
Discussion of litigation strategy usually occurs in executive session, particularly since Twenty Wayland’s attorney threatened litigation over disputed wastewater capacity and fees in May 2011. The Town Center developer filed suit against the Commission and the Town in November 2011, after the Department of Environmental Protection issued a phased discharge permit.
Closed-door discussions have continued since Wayland lost the $1.2 million judgment in Woburn Superior Court on June 11, 2013. The jury returned a unanimous breach of contract verdict, with damages and a requirement of performance. Town counsel Mark Lanza has made post-trial filings seeking reconsideration, the second of which was shot down by the trial judge on March 3.
The judge upheld the developer’s claim to 45,000 gallons per day of wastewater capacity in a 1999 Memorandum of Agreement signed by then-selectmen and wastewater commissioners. In a sworn deposition read aloud in court, then-Town Administrator Fred Turkington said he understood that Town Meeting had ratified that 1999 memorandum. That was incorrect.
The wording in the court judgment against Wayland is posted here:
“........defendants ‘shall provide 45,000 GPD (gallons per day of maximum daily design flow as defined in 310 CMR 15.000) of sewage treatment capacity.’”
Both the federal EPA and state DEP issue permits to the WWMDC for discharges from the wastewater treatment plant into the Sudbury River. What the judge never specified, according to Fliegauf, was what was intended in 1999 to be the “denominator,” i.e. the calculated percentage of the developer’s permitted discharge out of the total amount allowed by law.
Fliegauf is now focused on that question because if the intent in 1999 was for the 45,000 gallons to be measured out of 52,000 gallons per day stated in the federal discharge permit, that would mean the developer is entitled to 86% of the total allowable amount. In that case, smaller users whom Fliegauf represents believe the developer should pay for 86% of the cost of the new $5.6 million treatment plant, which began operating in November 2012.
Fliegauf offered the hypothetical strategy of asking Judge Dennis J. Curran for a declaratory judgment on this premise, asking what the WWMDC thought of this approach. Fliegauf’s clients seek equity and fairness after learning last year that the WWMDC was considering betterment formulas that would charge Twenty Wayland for only 62% of the cost of the new plant. Years ago the Finance Committee had told town meeting voters approving the new plant that the developer would pay 70% of the cost.
Meanwhile, last June the WWMDC filed to renew its federal permit, seeking to increase the current 52,000 gallons per day to 80,000 gallons per day. The new treatment plant had been over-designed to enable future commercial development. The EPA is not able to predict when it will be able process Wayland’s permit renewal application. In the meantime, the terms of the existing NPDES permit govern.
Whatever the Town Center developer does not pay towards the cost of the new plant gets shared by all the other plant customers, which means most Wayland Commons condo owners face an approximate $25,000 bill if a one-time betterment is applied. That sum is in the range of the cost of a new septic leaching field for homeowners. The WWMDC has until mid-August to decide whether it will charge a betterment or continue its current practice of applying surcharges, which can vary in the years ahead, but Commissioner Potter says will end up costing a similar amount.
What’s the difference between a surcharge and a betterment? Apparently municipalities are precluded from paying betterment fees. The town has an allocation in the system, and one possibility is the WWMDC could consider an annual surcharge to include the town users, which would somewhat reduce the fees to other users.
When asked about Fliegauf’s strategy, attorney Seligson, a litigator, said he did not share as much optimism for a favorable outcome from Judge Curran as Fliegauf does. Some plant users in the room expressed a range of personal views, not knowing if seeking such a judgment would collectively cost them $10,000 to pursue or could possibly escalate, as Potter said he has seen occur in his experience with litigation.
Small plant users are focused on achieving financial relief, with less concern for the town’s troubled wastewater history or exactly how that relief should happen, e.g. by the developer picking up more of the cost, the Town kicking in a greater share of the cost (to cover municipal facilities with plant allocations), or if money from the town center “gift” from the developer can be used.
Some have speculated that Town Center gift money is already earmarked to pay for the $1.2 million court judgment. Using what remains towards the new plant could leave little from the original $3 million contemplated in the 2006 development agreement between the selectmen and Twenty Wayland. In the 2009 amendment modifying that agreement, the payment of the gift was postponed and tied to the future construction of the housing component, now about half the units originally planned.
Some in the audience were asking for a meeting of all parties in the near future, including attorneys for the Town and Twenty Wayland. Commissioner Potter seemed to favor joint discussions. Some thought a mediator could be helpful.
At the approximate elapsed time 01:28:00, Potter said “Oops” when he realized that the meeting was being recorded by WayCAM. When the First Parish’s bell struck 9 p.m., both attorneys left, as did many in the audience. Neither selectman Joe Nolan nor former Finance Committee member Cherry Karlson attended the meeting. They have been their boards’ liaisons to the WWMDC.
The next WWMDC meeting will include an executive session on Wednesday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. The next regular monthly meeting is expected on Wednesday evening, May 14 with a rate hearing on Wednesday, June 11.
The posted April 30 meeting agenda identifies Kent Greenawalt as a new wastewater commissioner and includes him in the executive session. However, Greenawalt has not yet been interviewed or appointed by the Board of Selectmen to the WWMDC. In his March 24 email volunteering to serve, he said he agreed with the WWMDC getting outside professional help. He has an undergraduate degree in business and an MBA, worked over 25 years in commercial real estate, and says he is a passionate supporter of Town Center.
-- Linda Segal
NEWSPAPERS SEEK SCHOOL COMMITTEE MINUTES
The MetroWest Daily News and Wayland Town Crier want the secretary of state’s office to force the Wayland School Committee to release minutes of executive sessions involving questionable accounting for METCO funds.
The METCO account, now closed, was one of a number of irregularities turned up in audits mandated by Town meeting voters. METCO is a program allowing minority students from metropolitan schools to attend suburban schools.
The Daily News and Town Crier reported appealing on April 21 after Wayland Superintendent Paul Stein denied their request for minutes of executive (closed) sessions "during which Mabel Reid-Wallace was mentioned or discussed" from Sept. 1, 2013, to March 30.
Reid-Wallace, Wayland’s METCO director, was responsible for a discretionary fund that, according to Powers & Sullivan accountants, paid $20,440 into her personal credit card account. There is no public record that Reid-Wallace has produced records explaining the payments. Documentation is needed to show whether Reid-Wallace was reimbursing herself for expenditures on behalf of METCO.
The newspapers noted that letters to editor asked that the METCO investigation be turned over to an independent investigator. The School Committee says it took appropriate action on the discretionary fund.
-- WVN Staff
HELICOPTER MOSQUITO SPRAYING
Helicopters are scheduled to spray an anti-mosquito chemical in Wayland between now and April 29. Details, including a list of wetlands being evaluated, see:
WILD & SCENIC FILM FESTIVAL
OARS, an organization dedicated to preserving the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord Rivers, is sponsoring the 6th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival at the Fine Arts Theatre in Maynard on Wednesday, April 30. Details:
EIGHTH PRESCRIPTION DRUG “TAKE-BACK”
Local law enforcement agencies are sponsoring another drug “take-back” event this Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Unused or expired medications can be left at the Wayland Public Safety Building, no questions asked. For more information:
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor