Union's First Selectman calls on 'Robert's Rules of Order' to conduct a civilized and productive meeting

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Union - posted Wed., Mar. 9, 2011
Bob Bragdon, chair of the Veterans Memorial Committee, pictured left, and Mathieu Silbermann, School Building Committee member, attend the March 7 Board of Selectmen meeting.
Bob Bragdon, chair of the Veterans Memorial Committee, pictured left, and Mathieu Silbermann, School Building Committee member, attend the March 7 Board of Selectmen meeting.

The town of Union's First Selectman Albert L. “Andy” Goodhall, Jr. says that he “usually tries to conduct 'open' Board of Selectmen (BOS) meetings,” where residents can freely voice their opinions and issues. However, Goodhall recently expressed concerns about the open format, explaining that Union's heated issues have caused some meetings – especially the Feb. 22 BOS meeting - to deteriorate by becoming disorderly, sometimes uncivilized and often unproductive.

That changed at the March 7 BOS meeting, when Goodhall announced that the meeting would be conducted according to “Robert's Rules of Order.”

“We want to be closer to 'Robert's Rules' for the most part. The last meeting was not very civil. I am going to open the agenda and stick to business,” said Goodhall.

As a result of the structured format, Goodhall was able to make headway and address several agenda items, including the planned veterans memorial, the School Building Committee (SBC), the school building project, a planning and zoning ordinance and a project at the transfer station. The meeting concluded with consensus to bring at least three of those issues to town meeting at the end of March.

The first order of business was to review a proposal submitted by the Veterans Memorial Committee (VMC), which has been planning the town's veterans memorial. The BOS approved that proposal as submitted and approved the VMC's recommendation to install the new memorial on the town green. With those approvals, the BOS is closer to finalizing the town's application for a state STEAP grant, which will help fund the project.

The topic then switched to the pending issue of whether or not to dissolve the School Building Committee (SBC), which has not held a formal meeting since August of 2010. With a one-year total warranty on the new Union School, which opened in August of 2010, the town is now at least six months into that warranty period.

Currently, the SBC is maintaining a punch list, which Goodhall described as a list of school items that need to be fixed or repaired while the building is still under warranty. With the one-year clock ticking, some punch list items remain unresolved.

On March 7, a resolution presented by Goodhall at the Feb. 22 BOS meeting to define committees' responsibilities for pending issues with and ongoing maintenance of the new school was formally struck down.

In lieu, on March 7, Goodhall made a motion to outright dissolve the SBC.

“The School Building Committee hasn't met in six months. I would like to make a motion to formally dissolve the SBC as such, so that the Board of Selectman can actually close out the formal part of the project and the punch list, and move forward to the remediation and the well,” said Goodhall.

However, the motion was never seconded.

Instead, Selectmen Thomas L. Fitzgerald and Joseph L. Kratochvil, who is also a member of the SBC, opened a new discussion.

According to Kratochvil, “The building committee is supposed to have a meeting tomorrow night [March 8]. We're supposed to go through that punch list and warranty items. This is going to be an official meeting...I think they ought to be allowed to have that one more meeting. In the meantime, work is being done on the punch list. There are two or three items that still need to be completed, and some warranty items that needs to be completed. Contractors will have to be able to do this work when school is not in session.”

Fitzgerald agreed by saying, “I think that we should allow the building committee to have one more meeting, see what comes of it, and if we can get things cleaned up. If things aren't, then by the next selectmen's meeting, I don't see much choice but that we'll have to dissolve the SBC.”

“Remediation and the well should continue on. Andy has started on it, and I think he ought to continue working on it,” said Kratochvil.

“It needs to be done with cooperation,” responded Goodhall.

Goodhall stated that eventually the BOS will have to obtain the project laptop – which contains all data on the project from its beginning to current – from the SBC.

The SBC issue will once again be addressed at the next BOS meeting on March 21.

The on-going remediation of soil from the old school and issues concerning a new well for the new school were also addressed at the March 7 meeting. A decision was made to consider a location in the lower ball field for the well, while Goodhall will obtain estimates for both that location and for an alternative location in the Town Grove. The new well, which will be the second well for the school, will actually be the third well dug. The intended second well was deemed unsuitable, in spite of the implementation of a $100,000 filtration system that did not remedy that well's water issues.

Meanwhile, remediation expenses will also significantly increase the bottom line for the school project. The remediation and the third well will add an estimated additional $775,000 to the current school project budget of nearly $6.5 million - the amount initially approved by the town.

As a result of the cost increase, the BOS will hold a town meeting to request that residents approve the additional $775,000 for the school project. In essence, it seems that the town may be boxed in. If approved, then the BOS contends that the additional amount will qualify for the 47 percent state match that will help fund the new school project. If rejected, then the BOS posed the argument that the town will have to foot the bill in its entirety, as there will be no way to avoid the remediation or the digging of the additional well.

At the town meeting, the BOS will also broach a planning a zoning ordinance concerning the recording of deeds and maps in regard to property line changes, and a grant for the fire department. The town meeting is scheduled for March 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Union Town Hall.

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