July 09, 2020DALTON — At last Monday's board meeting in Dalton, a group of citizens brought to light several issues to include financial mismanagement and conflict of interest concerns with the current board.
Linda Greenwood, the town's Treasurer, and member of the unofficial concerned citizens group, read to the Board a compiled list of roughly ten concerns.
She began by saying, "I'm a bit nervous about participating in this meeting, but am hopeful to have some of our fears calmed and our questions answered."
Town Moderator and resident Christine Ordinetz explained the reason for the group.
"We're looking for an un-biased source to let the residents of Dalton know what is going on with the Select Board. There are two Board members who have immediate family members working for the Town," Ordinetz said.
She explained, "Jo Beth Dudley's sister has been interim Administrative Assistant and Carol Sheltry's husband is the Fire Chief."
Ordinetz mentioned the Fire Chief's 20 percent pay raise. To note, Carol Sheltry did recuse herself from that vote. As for rate of pay, Ordinetz suggests a pay scale policy be implemented across the board for all Town employees.
Ordinetz relayed that the Town has lost valuable associates after Dudley's sister took on the role as Administrative Assistant.
"Cohos Advisors had set up a QuickBooks program that we had been using since 2016, and was working fine, until this new Board came in. A representative from Cohos came in to do our audit and noticed the agreement dollar amount scratched out and written in. She was then told to leave by her own boss. Because of this, the audit couldn't happen," Ordinetz said.
She added, "This is a red flag, now another company needs to be hired, when the one we had was working seamlessly. Further, department heads had asked for a detailed budget report, as they go month by month to watch spending, and now they don't have it, because the Board hasn't' released it yet. They claim they are updating the information manually. Everyone knows you can upload old files digitally, and it would only take a few hours, so my question, is why is this information being put into the system manually?"
When asked how often the budget is looked at, Chair Jo Beth Dudley said, "In the discussion of the budget, it was noted that the town is in the middle of a transition to an updated accounting software, and the full integration of data from the old system (January - April 2020) into the new system is not yet complete. However, my preliminary analysis (unreconciled), combining data from both systems, shows that current expenditures are about 38 percent of budget at almost half-way through the year (YTD data through June 19, 2020). This figure is adjusted for the $14,492.48 received in reimbursements for COVID-19 related expenses."
Ordinetz relayed that 38 percent does not begin to include all of the bills and debts that are due now, adding "The Administrative Assistant is supposed to stay on top of this. Our airport dues are still not paid from last year, and are due again this year, and still sit unpaid."
A question was raised about why the person hired to maintain the website is no longer around, and why the Town Clerk was locked out of the website and unable to finish tasks related to her job.
Dudley said, "This is on our project list, and we are looking for someone with experience to volunteer."
The Town Clerk's website access was reinstated.
The next concern raised was in regards to tax errors, Greenwood said, "For over 20 years, Charlie Bailey correctly calculated the Timber Tax for each logging operation and charged the town $50 for each job. Mistakes have recently been made (e.g., JW Chipping, J. Dannis, M. Mason & others) by the Administrative Assistant, using a different system."
She went on to say, "Why change what was working? These businesses and tax payers are angry about the mistakes."
Dudley responded, "I'm not familiar with this, but I do know one was made by the person who submitted the form. I'm not sure if it's user error, but let's do better moving forward."
Ordinetz said, "Errors cost money. We're looking to reduce the number of errors as best we can."
Thirty-year Dalton resident, Scott Kleinschrodt brought up the two million dollar tax incentive proposed by Casella.
"There's no doubt that there will be pros and cons of having a landfill, it's just the nature of the beast. But we have to have an open mind to look past the optics and focus on facts," Kleinschrodt said.
He added, "There is so much fear mongering at a national level, we don't need it at the town level, and we don't need to be bullied."
He added, "We have to ask ourselves, if we want an affordable tax rate, health services and try to turn this town into a property rich one. I've been asking this for six weeks. How can we help residents financially and ensure future services?"
Kleinschrodt asked why the meeting with Casella was denied and said, "It's better to have working relationship than not too. Then if it happens were stuck with what they give us, instead of working with them."
Dudley said, "We wanted them to come to the board and talk to us. They could come to the board or through attorneys."
Lastly, Ordinetz said, "We just want to be sure the Board is working for the good of the Town. We hope it can be worked out and are looking to have more questions asked at our next meeting. We hope for better communication and cooperation moving forward. The goal of this meeting is disclose and address ethical and moral actions by the Dalton Select Board."