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Mass, Martin differ on GCET categorizing

  • MARTIN

  • Greenfield town councilman, Isaac Mass. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt Matt Burkhartt



Recorder Staff
Saturday, February 10, 2018

GREENFIELD — Trying to switch the nature of how GCET is categorized — in an effort to make its business dealings more public and ensure compliance with the state — might be more cumbersome than Greenfield Mayor William Martin anticipates.

City Councilor Isaac Mass, an attorney, told Martin the city’s efforts to change Greenfield Community Energy and Technology from a municipal light plant to an enterprise fund will take more than a simple council vote this month. Instead, Mass sees such a change being completed by July, in the new fiscal year, following two separate votes by the council and a special election vote.

What is needed to make the change isn’t shared by Martin, who “respectfully disagrees” with Mass during this week’s Committee Chairs meeting, when a formal order by the mayor to start the process of switching GCET to an enterprise fund was discussed.

“We anticipated your objection and requested an opinion from the town’s legal (attorney),” Martin said at the meeting.

While Mass is in favor of switching GCET to an enterprise fund, similar to how the town’s water and sewage is managed, he emphasized Thursday that he wants to make sure the city is not straying from what he interprets as the proper legal process.

“Some people like things to be as easy possible,” Mass said. “Unfortunately we have put hurdles in our own way … and we have to clear them.”

Mass, who was part of an investigation last year resulting in the firing of GCET’s general manager Daniel Kelly, said its important to do this process right because $5 million of taxpayer dollars are invested into the town Wi-Fi project.

“We are still suffering through the repercussions of the management decision that were made prior by the general manager,” Mass said. “As we move forward, we need to make sure were doing things correctly so we don’t dig ourselves in a deeper hole.”

As a municipal light plant, there is little to no state oversight of its finances, Mass said, while with an enterprise fund, there will be municipal oversight. In addition, with the changeover, it will make more of what GCET does public.

“I think it’s generally agreed that we have two issues,” Mass said. “There will be a funding crisis at some point if GCET does not step up in sales. There’s a question of how the accounting works on the revenue side.”

In practice, making GCET into an enterprise fund from a municipal light project should not do much to change how it operates and where it draws its money from, Mass said

Alternatively, if the mayor had decided to move GCET from a municipal light plant to the general fund, then it would alter how it could work. Mass said that could’ve meant GCET would have the ability to charge more for the same services.

Mass said the issue comes down to the two men having different views on what’s the process necessary to make the change.

“It’s a little extra work and it’s a little extra expense and will require some explanation, but with $5 million on the line and 82 percent of the voters committed to it, we deserve to them to explain what we’re doing,” Mass said.

Mass suggested a special four-hour election, similar to that of the vote on the Franklin County Technical School to help reduce the costs. While this will cost money, if needed, Mass sees it as short-term spending to avoiding long term spending to correct a potential mistake in the proper process.

If the mayor is correct, this process can likely be completed in the spring, following a vote by the council.

“The concern is we’re going to have to do this again if we don’t do it,” Mass said. “If he can show me I’m wrong, I’ll be the happiest member of the council to see that.”