Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shredding Day

The Rotary's 2d Annual Shredding Day is Saturday, May 3, at Lore's Plaza.

"Bring all of your boxes of papers, clean up your attics and basements. See you there rain or shine," a spokeman says.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bulky Waste Pickup

At the time of this post, DPW has booked 126 out of the 200 available pickups. DPW Administrative Aide/Office Manager Laurene Beattie said that most of the calls were for furniture and appliances. "There are a lot of pickups for exercise equipment and lawn mowers, too," she said.

Analysis of BOE Bottom Line

$59,115,622 Original BOE request

(1,750,000) Mayor’s reduction from requested increase

(1,170,411) Town Council’s reduction from requested increase

$56,195,211 Sent by Council to BOF

750,000 Added back by BOF
$56,945,211 The amount going to the voters at a Referendum

$59,115,622 Original BOE request

(56,945,211) The amount going to the voters at a Referendum
$ 2,170,411 Net reduction in original BOE request

(657,522) Amount saved by changing from fully insured to self-insured

( 60,000) Retirement savings

(222,694) Reduction in cost of liability insurance

(512,889) Amount to be taken from Capital Reserve Fund
$ 717,306 Net impact on original BOE request

(430,000) Further savings if BOE decides to postpone implementation of Strategic Plan as recommended by Mayor
$ 287,306 TOTAL reduction of BOE Budget

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DPW Announces Bulky Waste Pickup Service

Wow! The Mayor calls it a pilot project to determine the need and cost of the program. Here's the Press Release:

Something BIG is leaving your neighborhoods!
The Town of New Milford Public Works Department would like to announce the First Annual Bulky Waste Pickup Service. This is your chance to get rid of accumulated big stuff, such as furniture, washers and dryers, carpets, etc. Between May 5 and May 30, 2008 (excluding weekends and Holidays) the Public Works Department will perform bulky waste pickup to scheduled households on a first come first serve basis to the first 200 residents to call.
Pickup is available to residents of the Town of New Milford with a scheduled appointment. ALL items must be able to be lifted by two people.
· Pick ups will be BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.
· Items are to be left at the curbside ON THE DAY OF YOUR APPOINTMENT.
· Type of material able to be collected includes
o mattresses (must be dry),
o old furniture, Please do not break furniture up as all items in reasonable condition will be recycled.
o washers,
o rugs
o dryers,
o carpet,
Carpet needs to be cut into manageable sizes or rolled and taped.
· GARDEN WASTE (grass, brush, leaves, etc); please contact New Milford Farms (a Garick Corp.) at 860-210-0250 for this disposal.
· BUILDERS WASTE (demolition debris, wood, sheetrock, etc)
· LIQUIDS OR CHEMICAL WASTE (paint, varnish, antifreeze, waste oil, etc)-please keep all of this for the New Milford Health Departments annual fall Household Hazardous Waste Day and
Please call 355-6040 to schedule a pick up time. Please note that you must indicate what items you will have at the time you make your appointment. This program will be on a first come first serve basis and appointments will be limited to 10 pick ups per day. You can begin calling to schedule your appointment day on or after April 28, 2008.
*Please call 355-6040 for additional information*

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Publius: 'Today is Lenin's Birthday (a.k.a. Earth Day)'

Today is Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's birthday (a.k.a. Earth Day).

It's no coincidence that the date chosen for the first Earth Day in 1970 coincided with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, who was born on April 22, 1870.

The continued celebration of Lenin’s birthday speaks volumes about the hidden left-wing political agenda that dominates environmental groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Sierra Club, The World Wildlife Fund and countless other "Green" organizations.

For many on the political left, environmentalism is simply a means by which private property, individual freedoms and free markets can be increasingly regulated to a point of absolute government control. Ideology trumps ecology for these "watermelon" environmentalists (green on the outside and red on the inside), who routinely condemn all things capitalistic and advocate Soviet-style collectivism as the one true way to protect the earth’s environment.

Ironically, industrial development at any cost, not environmental stewardship, was the doctrine of Lenin’s Soviet Union. His failed system’s environmental legacy includes the following [1]:

-The despoiling of the Aral Sea;
-The open-storage of billions of tons of contaminated solid and liquid industrial wastes at thousands of locations, many containing high concentrations of heavy metals;
-Decommissioned nuclear submarines dumped in the Barents Sea;
-Nuclear disasters at Chelyabinsk and Chernobyl;
-Liquid nuclear wastes dumped in the Kara Sea and the Sea of Japan;
-Severe water pollution and extensive dam-building on the Volga and Dnieper rivers;
-Widespread radioactive contamination of the Yenisey River;
-Chemical weapons dumped at hundreds of locations in the Baltic, Black, Barents, Japan, Kara, Okhotsk and White Seas; and
-Millions of cubic meters of radioactive wastes injected into the ground at Krasnoyarsk.

Sincere environmentalists are horrified by the long-term ecological devastation and untold human suffering brought about by Lenin’s ruinous Soviet system. It's reprehensible that so-called "Progressive" and "Green" organizations surreptitiously honor the founder of an oppressive political system that routinely violated basic human rights, murdered millions of its citizens and exploited Russia’s natural resources with utter disregard for the environment.

Regrettably, students won't learn any of this in the public schools where a Soviet-style propaganda apparatus compels them to celebrate Lenin's birthday (a.k.a. Earth Day) today.

[1] L. A. Fedorov, Undeclared Chemical War in Russia: Politics against Ecology, 1995

Monday, April 21, 2008

BOE Budget Post Removed

I removed my Post about the BOE Budget because it contained errors. I will repost with the correct numbers shortly.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Norm Cummings Pic Makes Leno "Headlines"

On Monday nights, Leno has a segment entitled, "Headlines." It's a weekly compilation of funny pictures and news reports. Spelling errors, odd stories, ridiculous headlines. You get the idea.

Well, Norm's picture of New Preston resident Owen Moore and his rather large "gourd" made it to "Headlines."

Here's how to watch the video:

1) Go to: http://www.nbc.com/The_Tonight_Show_with_Jay_Leno/video/episodes.shtml
2) select April 14 episode at the bottom
3) wait for comfort inn commercial to finish
4) select Chapter 2 Headlines
5) Leno introduces the picture at about 19 minutes into the segment...enjoy!

Casa Latina and Zoning's One Mile Rule

Casa Latina opened a few months ago at 12 Bridge Street next to Bike Express. It provides translation, travel and international parcel services to New Milford's Hispanic community. It sells DVDs, calling cards, stamps and "ethnic and cultural paraphernalia." That's all great and is an indication of the Town's cultural diversity but I have a problem with the business selling items that violate the Zoning Regs.

Section 155-020 of the Regs, commonly referred to as the One-Mile Rule, prohibit certain uses from being "located within one linear mile of each other." "Convenience markets" are one of the listed uses.

A "convenience market" is defined in the Regs as "any retail store with 5,000 square feet or less selling foodstuffs and various household supplies."

Casa Latina has a number of racks filled with Goya brand and other foods ("foodstuffs"), cleaning products like paper towels and dishwashing liquids ("various household supplies") and more.

While New Milford should be "business friendly," it must enforce its Regulations without discrimination. Many business opportunities have been turned down since the One-Mile Rule was enacted some years ago, everything from car dealerships to major food chains to smaller mom-and-pop operations.

Maybe it's time to take another look at the Rule but until such time as it is repealed, the Zoning Enforcement Officer must put an end to violations of it.

Outsourcing of Passport Work to Thailand

A reader named Patricia submitted the following:

It has come to my attention that the USA has outsourced our passport work to a company in Thailand!

A spokesperson for GPO who is in charge of the contracts claims it is because of monetary constraints!

Check out the Washington Times web site!

This is very alarming to me and I would hope to your other readers. We need to get on the phones to Congress and DEMAND that this practice stop immediately. This is a severe security risk.

Thanks would like to have some input from other leaders."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NMPD Dispatcher In Route 67 Crash

NMPD Senior Dispatcher Brian Powers is the driver who was flown out by Lifestar last night after a crash on Route 67.

I am assuming that a person who handles horror stories for a living every day wasn't doing anything dumb.

I wish him a speedy recovery.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Movies and Hotel at Candlewood Valley CC?

Here we go again. The rumor this time is that a deal is in the works to sell the Candlewood Valley Country Club to Bow Tie Partners, real-estate developers and owners of Bow Tie Cinemas, for the construction of a Hotel and a multiplex theatre.

Learn more about Bow Tie at http://www.bowtiepartners.com/index.htm. I believe that Partner Ben Moss has a home in New Milford.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

BOF Raises Tax Increase From 3.7% to 4.1%

BOF Member Frank Wargo started the night with an impassioned speech about the importance of education and the number of engineers being turned out by the Indian education system. When asked by Chairman Bob Sherry how he expected to pay for his proposal to give 1.4 million back to the BOE, he said, "I'll work nights...but please don't print that!!!"

Further motions failed until a motion finally passed that gives $750,000 back to the BOE with a request to the Town Council that $500,000 of it come from the internal service fund. Fat chance that will happen because it would require a change to the ISF Ordinance.

Kudos to Larry Tripp who was against taking any more money out of undesignated and expressed his discomfort, along with Mark Vendetti, in basing any increase on what may come in during the year such as a sale of Century Brass or development on Route 7. "I see growth," said Mark, "But it isn't here yet."

The proposed mil rate is 22.22; tax increase 4.12%; an increase of $205.55 on the average assessment of $233,580.00.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Wellman Makes Reduction Motion; Jankowski Attends BOE Meeting

This is the text of a Motion that BOE Member Bill Wellman made at tonight's BOE Meeting:

"During the current year, the school system operated on a budget of $55,552,177. That budget is recognized by school administrators as having been a “good budget.”

The Board of Education is responsible for proposing a budget for the New Milford School system each year. In doing so, they rely on information provided by the Superintendent of schools and her staff. This year the Board of Education originally requested a budget for the 2008-2009 school year of $59,115,622 or an increase over the 2007-2008 budget of $3,563,445.

Although mandated by its own strategic parameters to consider the ability of the town to finance its budget, the Superintendent presented no evidence to the Board with respect to the town’s ability to finance the education budget and the Board required none.

Subsequently, the Mayor proposed a budget to the Town Council that reduced the increase requested by the Board of Education by $1.75 million. The Town Council further reduced the increase by $1.1 million. The actions by the Mayor and the Town Council appear to have been motivated by their concerns about the ability of the Town to afford such an increase in the coming year.

During the Town Council’s deliberations, members of the Board of Education raised the issue of whether the Board was entitled to use of a substantial portion of a surplus available in the “Internal Service Fund”, a town fund dedicated to financing medical costs for town and school employees and retirees. The Town Attorney advised that those funds could not be turned over to the Board of Education; and the Town’s Chief Financial Officer, Ray Jankowski, pointed out that the Board of Education had been substantially underestimating the revenue the fund would receive from co-payments by the fund’s school beneficiaries resulting in higher taxes to the taxpayers of roughly $500,000 per year for, at least, the last two years.

The Superintendent reviewed the history of the fund from the school system’s perspective and confirmed Jankowski’s findings. The Superintendent further acknowledged that the Board of Education’s budget for the coming year, 2008-2009, included such an underestimate again.

The Superintendent’s report concluded that there was a need to restore the citizen’s trust and confidence in the process and suggested that there be better communication with the Chief Financial Officer’s office but did not suggest any way to deal with the error in the coming year’s budget.

It is important to note that underestimating the co-payments of fund participants has no benefit to our children, the educational system, plan participants, or any individual. The consequences are to increase the taxes paid by the taxpayers, and to create a surplus in the “Internal Service Fund”. It is, also, important to note that there is no allegation, nor any evidence, that these surplus monies were used in 2006 or 2007 as a slush fund or benefited any individual.

The taxpayers of the Town of New Milford, however, were harmed by having to pay higher taxes than necessary and the school system may have been harmed by not having these funds available for other educational purposes. Clearly, and at a minimum, the Board should take action to correct this year’s budget request.

As the budget is our responsibility, I believe the Board should inform the Mayor, the Town Council, the Board of Finance and through them the taxpayers of the Town that we regret the error and specify what we as a Board believe should be done with the funds so recovered - whether it be to reduce the budget request or to apply the funds to a specific use.

Since the Board of Education adopted its requested budget, other developments have impacted our budget request but you would never know it from the recent hearing at the Board of Finance In addition to myself, the Chairman of the Board of Education, the Superintendent of Schools, and other members of the Board of Education were present. Comments from members of the Board were limited to requests that budget monies be restored – no mention was made of the developments which make our original request excessive.

Since our original request was submitted, (1) the Superintendent has identified $280,000 in savings, (2) a majority of the Town Council has indicated that the Board could use $500,000 from the capital reserve fund for its capital needs instead of budgeting that amount; (3) health insurance premiums will be reduced by $680,000; and (4) around $500,000 will not be required for the internal service fund. In sum, we now need $1,960,000 less than we did at the time we submitted our budget request but everyone continues to act as though we need the entire budget restored. This is not the way to restore trust and confidence. If this Board is serious about restoring trust and confidence, we must be candid with the Town government and the taxpayers, and see to it that our actions match our words.

Above all we must recognize that our responsibility is not just to spend but to spend wisely and take the steps to do so. Until we do, we are not entitled to trust, confidence or credibility.

I move that the Board direct the Superintendent to inform the Mayor, the Town Council and the Board of Finance in writing of our error with respect to the internal service fund, apologize for it and inform them that we are reducing our budget request for the coming year by $1,960,000 – the amount of the savings we have already recognized."

The Motion failed 7-2; the two that voted for it were Wellman and Turk.

Town Treasurer Ray Jankowski attended the Meeting.

Judge Pickard's Decision (See Earlier Post)

Insurer: Officials Aren’t Covered for Ethics Complaints

A frivolous Ethics Complaint was filed years ago against then Board of Finance Member John Spatola. After lengthy proceedings, Spatola prevailed and the Complaint was dismissed.

Spatola asked the Town to reimburse him for his legal fees as provided by State Statute but the Town and its insurer, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (CIRMA), refused to do so. Spatola then sued the Town and CIRMA. CIRMA has its own attorneys and it retained Frederick M. O’Brien to represent the Town.

O’Brien made a motion to have the case against the Town thrown out. Judge Pickard denied the motion; his September 26, 2007, Memorandum of Decision is what I posted separately.

Now things get more complicated.

What O’Brien failed to do was make a claim against CIRMA to challenge its refusal to pay Spatola’s legal fees. That failure leaves the Town swinging in the wind.

Two weeks ago, O’Brien made a motion asking Judge Pickard to take another look at his decision. It’s called a Motion to Reconsider. The problem is that although these motions must be made within 20 days after the date of a Judge’s decision, O’Brien’s Motion was made about six months after Judge Pickard’s September 26 decision. According to Court records, Judge Pickard denied it even before he received papers opposing it.

It appears that the Council lost all confidence in O’Brien so it hired Dan Casagrande to try to fix the mess. After bringing himself up to speed, Casagrande's likely first step is to try to convince CIRMA to pay the legal fees the easy way. If that fails, he may join Spatola in a request to Judge Pickard for an order directing CIRMA to pay. It doesn’t take a lawyer to figure out from his decision that Judge Pickard appears to believe that CIRMA is on the hook.

For the moment, Town Officials who successfully defend Ethics Complaints shouldn’t expect to be reimbursed for their legal fees.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Here Comes the Board of Finance

On Wednesday evening, the BOF will start its Budget deliberations.

The Charter changes provide that this will be this Board's one and only shot. If the Budget fails, it will go back to the Town Council, not the BOF as it did in the past.

What is the BOF likely to do?

After the resignation of Michel Gutman, the BOF is now comprised of 3 Dems and 3 Republicans. The former are Gayle Alexander, Frank Wargo and Shelly Pruss. The latter, Larry Tripp, Chairman Bob Sherry and Mark Vendetti.

Gayle Alexander was and may still be a substitute teacher and rumor has it that his wife has applied for a BOE job. Frank and Shelly are very pro-ed. Larry Tripp is a retired teacher. In years past, Bob Sherry has put money back in the BOE budget and Mark Vendetti is a conservative. Put all of this in the mix and what do you get? A big chance that, by majority vote, the BOF will put money back for the BOE by taking more out from undesignated. There's a very slim chance that there'll be a 3-3 tie in which event Section 705 of the Charter provides that the Budget sent to the Board by the Council will be the Budget that is sent to the voters.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Superintendent's Review of Jankowski Issue

It was by no means a surprise. It was a reminder. A reminder that Dr. Paddyfote is as good a spinmeister and as savvy a BOE boss as this Town has ever seen. The "Medical Insurance Review" that she distributed last night to the BOE Operations Committee speaks volumes to those whom she can count on to swallow its contents hook, line and sinker.

To the rest of us, it is a grand effort to obfuscate and to shift the blame for what happened to Town Treasurer, Ray Jankowski. Not unexpectedly, it addresses very little of the facts about the accounting issue raised by him and provides almost none of the information sought by Member Julie Turk. Is this a sophisticated accounting problem? "No," Ray said, "This isn’t rocket-science."

It’s clear to me that most people at the Meeting don’t understand fund balance accounting. That’s why, for example, Vice-Chair Tom McSherry keeps asking why payments have been made from the account and still seems to think that money has disappeared. But I doubt that Board Members knew anything about what was going on and Mr. Jankowski agrees.

"I’m not pointing fingers at any Board Members," he said this morning after reading the Report. "They’re not an integral part of the process.

"They need to be able to rely on the numbers given to them by their finance people just as the Town Council relies on my Office."

But that may be a reason we have the problem. It’s my understanding that none of the employees in the BOE business office are CPAs or certified in BOE finance. In response to the question by Board Member Bill Wellman, Dr. Paddyfote announced that it was former employee Tom Corbett who did the "estimating" of the amount for this line item, a task she refers to as a "dicey proposition." Tom Corbett attended the Meeting last night but sat in the audience. He does have the requisite qualifications but he is now working for the BOE on a per diem basis. Absent from last night’s Meeting was Assistant Superintendent Tom Mulvihill. I’d like to hear someone ask Tom Corbett some questions. And Mulvihill, too. Maybe Corbett’s motivation was entirely innocent...maybe he thought he was doing the right thing for the kids. Maybe he had instructions. We won’t know unless he’s asked.

An exchange between Bill Wellman and BOE Business Office Member John Turk was getting a bit hot and heavy over the insistence that Corbett used "sound methodologies" to make the estimates that were discovered to be wrong. "Sound methodology?" Bill asked. "We’re off by more than $500,000 each year and you call that ‘sound methodology’? How many teachers, how many books, pay-for-play...what else?"

Turk responded to Bill’s inquiry about the methodologies in the same way they are addressed in the Report. "[W]e believe a traditional method based on recent historical trends present a solid methodology." Mr. Jankowski asks, "Why didn’t they use it...why didn’t they use the real historical data, the actual revenues?" And that’s still the number 1 question and it can only be answered by Tom Corbett.

When did Corbett first learn that there was a problem with this account? According to Dr. Paddyfote’s all-too-carefully-chosen words, "The first indication that the BOE estimates were conservative and cautious occurred when [Corbett] prepared a summary of the BOE’s Medical Expenses and Payments for the March 4, 2008 Operations’ [sic] Committee."

"Not true," says Ray whose relationship with Tom Corbett goes back many years. "In July or August of 2006 I discussed the problem with him although I didn’t reduce it to writing." "Also, in February of this year I raised the same concerns in a Meeting in the Loretta Brickley Conference Room. JeanAnn was there with Lisa Diamond, Tom McSherry, the Mayor and Michel Gutman. I asked them to look at this closely."

The last Section of the Report is entitled "Future Considerations" and many Members of the Committee said that they wanted steps to be taken to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. "The only way that we’re going to get beyond this is to have an open, transparent relationship with the Town," said former Chair Wendy Faulenbach. I agree. But that means that the BOE Finance people have to show up when the Mayor asks to meet with them, the Superintendent and the BOE leadership to discuss an upcoming budget. They’ve failed to attend such meetings at least two years in a row and the whispers in the hallway are that the Superintendent tells them not to.

How can there be budget "interplay" between the Town and the BOE, as Chair Lisa Diamond called it, if the BOE Finance people are prohibited from attending meetings?

There are still facts to be uncovered but they are not as important as the necessity of changing the BOE culture that thinks it is not part of the Town. After all, the money we're talking about belongs to all of the taxpayers. The keys are transparancy and accountability, concepts that don’t sit well with a Superintendent who holds dear her authority and control.