Thursday, July 30, 2009

09/10 Capital Budget: public works meeting... and Town Hall's credibility gap

I got to the public works capital budget meeting late, but did raise some concerns that had been on my mind:

Are these sewer projects energy-intensive? And if we move forward with these improvements that could easily cost eight figures, will we find energy-efficiencies?

Of course, I knew the answer was "yes." But there was another point to my questions.

I then asked who created this capital budget?

I was told that staff created the budget and it was revised and approved by the WPCA.

Again, I knew the answer.

But then I asked about some previous email exchanges between me and staff... those exchanges related to me advocating the use of performance contracting as a financing mechanism for these large ticket items. And the basic result of those emails was me being told that if the sewers were to be financed using performance contracting, staff couldn't drive that initiative. It would have to be driven by the WPCA.

Of course, that's a load of BS. And that's why I asked who created the budget - staff, not the WPCA. But then I've known for years that staff (and their Rubber Stampers) are opposed to the very concept of performance contracting, despite their repeated lip service. So I wasn't breaking any new ground here... just putting this nonsense on the record.

And as for staff's years of asserting that no one has yet to prove that performance contracting would save the town money...

I also recall staff telling me for years that videostreaming on the town website had too many technical difficulties and cost too much to make happen.

Then the Council composition changed and Sheldon Dill returned.

"Suddenly" videostreaming was possible.

Whether staff's assertion is correct that performance contracting may not save the town money is largely irrelevant. The problem is that staff has already been shown to be intellectually dishonest at times - the credibility is gone.

This lack of credibility extends to other members of the Town's senior management. Look no further than hotWatergate. While some claim there was no one to blame, anyone with half a brain can see who screwed up that project.

And continuing with other problems in town that continue to get swept under the carpet... there's the police department... some of you may remember this grievance (there's a reason I've been asking about the extent of grievances for the past two years - there's a "there" there - despite the nonsense claims by the Town's top hypocrite). Or maybe you'll remember this slap in the face to staff members who are not card-carrying members of The Inner Circle.

Come November, I seriously hope the voters identify five Council members who are willing to challenge Cheshire's Political Class. I've concluded that their sense of entitlement and belief that they will never be held accountable can only be challenged in the voting booth.

Tim White


Anonymous said...

Tim, you may be right that the current rubber stampers aren't in favor of performance contracting, but I feel the real reason is because they are all too lazy to learn about it.
I have large concerns that there are so many voters in this town that are not up on the issues that they will just vorre for names and not be aware of the issues. I hope I am wrong, but it is sad.
Thank God for a blog like this that residents can actually learn about what is going on in this town.
I hope you will include this website on your advertising signs and pamphlets. It is a good way to get the word out there.

Breachway the taxpayer said...

Whenever I hear that the town won't consider performance contracting, I am amazed. It is like saying we don't want to save money. Oh, I forgot....this isn't the corporate world...why would Cheshire want to do something that so many corporations-and a lot of municipalities-have found beneficial. This is one of the reasons I don't support throwing money at the pool. I have no confidence that the town is doing everything in its power to save money.

Anonymous said...

Tim, please give a real example of a town that has successfully used performance contracting..thanks..

Anonymous said...

Read this:
Colorado Success
Saced $174,000 the first year.
Read This:
American School & University Success

There are plenty more out there, like the city of Buffalo that save a ton of money as well.

I don't know what more you people need to see. Why not try it??
It amazes me that you can walk them to the water, but you can't make them drink.

tim white said...

12:32 thanks.

10:42... Newington, Stratford, Branford come to mind. The high school in Naugatuck has had a PC for about six years and the principal lives here in Cheshire. She told me that it has worked well.

The Federal Gov't uses them to a great extent.

The problem in Cheshire is when Council members are untruthful about their intentions... and staff use straw men to divert attention from the option.

Best I can tell, the real issue is that Cheshire's Political Class is enamored with those lying, thieving rating agencies. But as long as the crooks in Washington allow the ratings agencies to remain in the law... then Cheshire's Political Class will continue to want to see those damned ratings on their resume... always thinking about the next job.

What should happen is:

1) the ratings agencies get stripped of their unique place in American law; and

2) the Rubber Stampers should tell staff that the ratings agencies are crooks and should not be given legitimacy.

Once that happens, then there wouldn't be a concern about the ratings agencies viewing a PC as debt. Until then, staff and the RSers will continue living in fear that the rating agencies will view PCs as part of the town's debt... and that those same morally bankrupt ratings agencies would view the Town's debt not as $65 million, but as $85 or $95 million... which would mean our ratings may drop from double A to single A... not that it really matters all that much, except in terms of interest paid on debt... but then... what is the real motivator here?

Is Cheshire's Political Class concerned with the Town debt ratings? Or are they concerned with their resume?

Look no further than Councilman Truth touting the town's debt rating as proof that he's done a good job on the Council.

Ha! The ratings agencies have NO credibility. Any CPA could tell you that.

Anonymous said...

My understanding of performance contracting based on 12:32's links is that it only works on projects that improve the energy efficientcy of a building. It cannot be used on new construction as there is nothing previous that can be improved. Being that we only pay a set amount per year until the contract is paid off, it will appear that the town has more debt for a longer period of time. That would come into play if we were to build a new school or Milone's town hall annex building.
I personally do not care how we fund these projects (performance or bonding) but we need to examine how one plays into the other. Will a 20 year performance contract hurt us when we want a bond for 10 years to add a school? Is there anything in the fine print allowing the performance contractor to call in the outstanding balance early? (can we be forced to pay 18 years of contract on demand?) They both can work for and against the other and we need to know more before jumping on the bandwagon of less financially stable communities and states.

tim white said...

11:32 fair points... but my real goal isn't to engage in a PC. My goal is to have a real discussion on the costs / benefits of such an engagement... with the general idea that we may then put pen to paper and determine which projects would have the best return on investment... then we could collate those energy-efficiency projects with other infrastructure projects that need to be done regardless (i.e. leaky roof)... and make the sales pitch to the towns people with a clear demonstration that such a project (easily eight figures) would work... then roll it out asap.

The sooner we do this, the sooner we'll be reducing our energy consumption... energy that is normally electricity, NG or heating fuel... and the heating fuel in particular is a problem IMO as it much of it originates in the middle east.

Anonymous said...

Instead of constantly mentioning it as an idea, maybe you can get actual numbers to propose on a specific project. Find out what it would cost to get a performance contract on a project in the 5 year plan compared to bonding. I think most taxpayers will be more upset if a project is delayed because of investigative measures. That is the only way there is a chance it would be accepted.

tim white said...

I specifically mentioned the sewers in August 2007. Ecke promised to consider it. In December 2007, he held a budget committee meeting. At the end of the meeting, he asked for more information. That information was delivered to him - more than once.

I'm still waiting for his followup.

The fact is that he's in the majority and as long as the majority plays the Washington-style game of "deny, defer, delay," there's little that I can do... other than use the bully pulpit to remind Ecke's actual boss (the voters, not his perceived boss - the TM) that he has let his promise go unfulfilled for two years (and he ignored my suggestions for even longer than that).

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim: I gotta tell ya, you seem more animated since you returned from Costa Rica. Arriba! If you can channel that energy on the correct foci of town issues, we will all be better off-- keep it up!

Anonymous said...

The way the Dems have been selling out Cheshire to the special interests, I think Cheshire woulde fit better into New Jersey.

How many buses could Cheshire fill?

Anonymous said...

So, you try to get something done and it gets rejected but dill returns and gets it done? You are not that productive, are you?