Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Umbarger: 'Don't Lay the Blame Entirely On BOE'

I have to take exception to several comments in your post on the proposed New Milford budget deliberations.

But first, I agree that the economic situation is ‘not good’. Actually I think the national, state and local economic conditions are the worst I have seen in my lifetime, with no ‘blue sky’ on the economic horizon. Forces are in play beyond the control of federal, state or local policy makers.

You, in draconian or theatrical fashion, mention that to close town hall, curtail all capital projects, higher town employee medical contributions should not be entertained as discussion points for budget deliberations.

I believe everything should be on the table, what’s wrong with discussing having town employees pay the increase for their health insurance (the premiums are not going to go down – there has to be a restraint on this expense). Certainly there will be resistance, but not to discuss such a significant expense borders on dereliction. Soon, very soon the unions will have to realize that this benefit should not and cannot continue as it is currently structured.

To lay the blame entirely on the BOE, as you do, is an attempt at obfuscation and/or misdirection. A quick perusal of the budget indicates there are some material benefits that could be realized by looking at the ‘Town’ side.

Why in this economic environment do we need a two person staff for economic development, which have salary expense of over $100,000? If the thesis of dire economic forecast is correct, then the Town’s support of this expense is counterintuitive. Why should we pay to entice economic activity if there is none to be had? Why not cut these positions to a .2 personnel allocation, which would allow the Town to maintain development activity commensurate with the economic forecasts (and save $80,000)? But the big one, the best piece of pork, is $7,000 for workshops/memberships/conferences for the Economic Development Supervisor and Secretary. Let’s get real – that’s a complete waste of money when ‘every dollar counts’. Sounds like we are ‘building a bridge to nowhere!’!

And what about the Candlewood Lake Authority contribution of $58,800? That’s the amount the Town pays First Light (a private equity firm, or, - hedge fund) all the while First Light wants to ‘tax’ lakefront property owners for shoreline management and recreational boaters a sticker fee to support marine enforcement, while the Town has no zoning/building/health code jurisdiction below the 440 line according to the recent Supreme Court decision. I think the Town should seriously reconsider its $58,800 ‘tax’ payment to First Light.
Isn’t it interesting that First Light has been given zoning, environmental, health, jurisdiction which supersedes the towns’ in which the lake is domiciled, but additionally has quasi-police power through the marine patrols, proposed taxing power through the boat sticker and lakefront property fees. Sure sounds like we are ceding governmental power to a ‘private equity’ firm. Jay – you’re an attorney, with the recent court decision is First Light subject to local municipal ordinances below the 440 line, and are they even subject to State Statute with the FERC (Federal) governance decision?

Lastly, about deferring the implementation of the BOE strategic plan. I would bet the same folks who are now suggesting that the BOE defer plan implementation are the same folks who several years ago criticized the BOE for not having a plan – damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

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