Dept. of Revenue clarifies GCET accounting


Recorder Staff
Friday, September 22, 2017

GREENFIELD – Mayor William Martin announced Friday he received clarification from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue confirming proper accounting practices for the town’s new semi-independent internet provider Greenfield Community Energy and Technology (GCET).

When reached by phone Friday, Martin explained the DOR’s Division of Local Services provided clarification by differentiating between municipal light plants (MLPs) that are broadband-only companies and those that are gas and electric companies.

“That’s clarification that’s always been needed because of the difference in laws governing each,” he said. “Before that there were confusing interpretations of Chapter 164.”

GCET was established under Chapter 164 of Massachusetts General Laws, which originally allowed for MLPs to provide electricity, and in modern times is being used to run municipal broadband operations. In particular, Sections 55 to 58 govern MLPs, Martin said.

Martin said the Division of Local Services helped confirm that all telecommunications MLPs follow municipal finance, clarifying how GCET will be do business and taking “the gray area out of the picture.”

For example, Section 56 states an auditor or comparable officer shall approve the payment of all bills or payrolls of MLPs before they are paid by the treasurer, and may disallow any claim as fraudulent, unlawful or excessive. In that case, reasons for refusal are filed with the town treasurer, and treasurer will not pay the bill.

“This guidance confirms the accounting processes that I’ve been advocating,” Town Accountant Elizabeth Braccia is quoted as saying in a press release from Martin’s office.

Additionally, the release states the Department of Public Utilities “has concluded it does not have regulatory oversight of broadband-only MLPs.”

“We’ve been asking the state these questions these questions for the last year, and are glad to finally receive this clarity,” Martin is quoted as saying in the release. “There is no further need to continue this discussion and we can now move forward doing what GCET was created to do: provide low-cost, high-speed internet across town.”

Martin also said in the release that he welcomes the Office of the State Auditor to review all GCET procedures, with Town Council voting Wednesday to formally request the office conduct an investigation into GCET’s financial administration.