“NOTHING TO HIDE:” New-look BOS intensify focus on Mark Beaton, Green Energy Comm.
“We’re communicating, we’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve showed you all the numbers. I’m not trying to hoodwink anybody.”
-Green Energy Committee Chairman Mark Beaton
“We had a list of all the committee’s put together for us,” BOS-Chairman Elaine Fiore (pictured) said as she held up a weighted binder. “It had been suggested that…going though this list of committee’s, seeing what is still active…what [committee’s] aren’t. What [committee’s] have charges and what [committee’s] don’t.”
Fiore didn’t stop there.
“Without a charge, you don’t know the goal or the purpose of the committee,” Fiore said. “And [term] durations, some durations are indefinite.”
Selectman Dennis Randall echoed Fiore’s concerns about ‘chargeless’ committee’s.
“We have an arm of town government that sort of makes up its own thing and somehow keeps the people out of the loop,” Randall told his board. “If there is no charter…or assigned mission for the committee…it’s a kind of free-range committee.”
Randall called committees without charges a form of “chaos” in town government before adding, “in any private business you wouldn’t have that.”
Moments after Randall’s comments, Mark Beaton, the Chairman of the Green Energy Committee (GEC) took to the podium in keeping with a 7:30 pm appointment with the BOS to address Beaton’s request to reduce his committee from seven members to five.
“[Is] the committee…the one making the recommendation to reduce it from seven to five [members]?” Fiore asked Beaton.
Beaton told Fiore that his committee was present with a quorum on Tuesday night and said the GEC downsize had been discussed “because of the lack of quorums.”
Beaton then took to the podium and tried to make a GEC motion to reduce the size of the GEC from seven to five members, but was unable to hold a vote because of a lack of a GEC quorum in the selectmen chambers.
Selectman Richard Arruda picked up the GEC’s slack and made a motion to reduce the GEC from a seven-member board to five members, prompting a second from Selectman Susan Munford and a unanimous BOS vote.
“You fall into this committee category,” Fiore then said to the GEC Chairman. “Your members don’t have durations…and you have no charge.”
That comment sent Beaton rifling through his folder.
“WE’D BE GOING OFF ON TANGENTS…”
“To that point, I understand what you’re trying to do,” Beaton said to Fiore. “Put things in writing. It’s great, but there was a charge that Ron Maribett, when he started this committee, is, ya know, they were looking at energy costs, how we consume and acquire energy and impact on the future.”
Ron Maribett, the mission statement’s author, is a former GEC member, a former Green Party candidate for Massachusetts General Court and an ex-Kingston selectman.
“And as a way to probably put something in your three-ring binder…we do have a mission statement that we, as a committee, voted on because we wanted a focus,” Beaton said to Fiore.
“It’s pretty simple…we pretty much went with what Ron Maribett said,” Beaton announced as he prepared to read the GEC’s 2010 mission statement.
Beaton then introduced Maribett’s 2010 GEC mission statement to the BOS.
“Our mission of the Green Energy Committee is to promote and peruse clean, renewable sources of energy for the Town of Kingston and the public and private sector…
…The Green Energy Committee will also investigate and propose conservation methods and fuel-efficient progress that will reduce the Town’s dependence on fossil fuel. The goal of the Green Energy Committee initiatives is to reduce carbon emissions, while at the same time saving money for the Town, residents and businesses of the community.”
The Journal is still investigating whether or not the Maribett-authored GEC mission statement was ever approved by the BOS, as per town bylaws surrounding BOS-appointed committees.
Beaton said the GEC “put something in place” to help the committee run their meetings more efficiently “because sometimes we’d be going off on tangents that would take us a lot of time and get away from what the focus of the committee was.”
Fiore said the BOS would look at Beaton’s GEC mission statement and “we’ll put that with the rest of the committee things and look at those charges and durations.”
The BOS-chairman then asked Beaton for his input on term-durations for GEC members.
“I’d just recommend open ended on the appointments,” Beaton said to Fiore. “Because as long as someone’s willing to show up…why tell them at the end of the year ‘reapply?'”
“We’re not appointing Pope’s,” Randall said. “We’re appointing human beings.”
Randall said he was “absolutely opposed to open-ended appointments to any kind of standing committee.”
“I’m elected for one year right now…I personally would love if I was elected for life but I don’t think everybody else in town who didn’t vote for me would like it,” Randall said to Beaton. “That’s the way it works. You have a set term, you have a set charge. And then if you’ve done your job on the set charge you get another term. There’s accountability.”
Fiore followed up on Randall’s statements, saying the BOS and the GEC would “work on that together.”
Then, as the appointment seemed all but over, Beaton led into a monologue to validate the existence of the GEC.
“And, seeing as you brought me out on my night off, which I don’t get many of ’em, just a couple of minutes,” Beaton said to the BOS. “Because I want to explain the charge of this Green Energy Committee as we’ve [seen] it and what we’ve done.”
ACCORDING TO BEATON
“We’ve gotten $320k in grants because we’re a green community,” Beaton said. “That went into retrofits in the elementary school, the fire station, the police station.”
According to Beaton, because of the green-community grants which funded retrofitting, the Town of Kingston is saving $118k a year at the elementary school on utility costs. “That’s like two teachers,” Beaton said.
Beaton also cited $63k in energy savings to the Town from the Kingston Wind Independence (KWI) Turbine and $62k in collected revenue from the leasing of the land atop Kingston’s capped landfill along Route 3.
“[No] Fossil Fuels is giving us a purchase-power agreement of about $18k…taxes are $55k per turbine,” Beaton told the BOS.
The GEC-chairman claimed to the selectmen that his committee has “raised over three quarters of a million dollars,” before reminding the BOS that his committee was made up of resident volunteers with an $800 annual budget.
Beaton said nearly $500k of the $750k he cited as GEC-raised funds is reoccurring revenue on a yearly basis with annual percentage increases.
“We’ve got more stuff that we’re looking forward to do,” Beaton continued. “We’ll be the only community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that has a net-zero carbon footprint.”
Beaton also thanked Town Planner Tom Bott and acting-Town Administrator Nancy Howlett for assisting the GEC throughout their tenures. “Without them we would have just been lost souls without a captain at the ship,” Beaton said.
As Beaton inched away from the podium, Fiore asked him to “come back and share with us so people out there know what you’re doing, what’s going on and there’s no surprises.”
Fiore then asked Beaton to share any upcoming GEC projects with the BOS prior to upcoming town meetings.
Selectman Sandy MacFarlane then requested that the BOS reinstitute annual reports for all appointed committees “so people can see where their tax dollars are going.”
Selectman Susan Munford elaborated on MacFarlane’s suggestion and recalled a recent discussion at a joint meeting of the BOS and the Town Government Implementation Committee where it was suggested that the BOS hear reports from town committees on a “rotating basis.”
“If we’ve got 33 committee’s, divide it by 12…and every February this committee comes in and every March this committee comes in,” Munford suggested.
Randall kept his focus on Beaton and the GEC.
“You’re committee is not an independent committee of the town,” Randall said. “It is working on behalf of the town. It gives feedback to the town, the town gives direction.”
Randall accused the GEC of not communicating with the BOS properly due to a lack of quorum, prompting Beaton to fire back “oh, no. No, we’ve had meetings all along.”
“Have they been quorums?” Randall responded to Beaton.
“Lately we haven’t had a quorum but we do communicate and I spoke to the [BOS] recently that we want to get that [request for proposal] for the solar farm out,” Beaton said. “That’s our new project.”
“We’re communicating, we’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve showed you all the numbers. I’m not trying to hoodwink anybody,” Beaton said.
Randall said minutes must be taken for all public committees, leading Beaton to answer “and we’ve done that.”
“Except when you haven’t been able to,” Randall answered before Fiore closed the GEC’s Tuesday night appointment.
The selectmen formally removed Mike O’Mara from his GEC post with thanks on Tuesday night, completing the reduction of the GEC to five members.
Kingston’s GEC has been a six-member board since the impromptu resignation of Pine duBois this spring.
The next regularly scheduled BOS meeting is on July 30, although an agenda has not yet been posted.