Dalton Debates Future for Troubled Green Committee
DALTON, Mass. — Select Board members continue to weigh whether or not to continue its Green Committee, a volunteer body that has recently provoked frustration from multiple town employees.
At its Monday session, Chair Robert Bishop updated the board on an investigation he has been conducting this month into complaints brought to light in January. These complaints includes a petition requesting the committee be curtailed that was brought forward by Town Planner Rebecca Slick and signed by seven other top town employees, including interim Town Manager Sandra Albano.
"I think this whole thing is just a huge misunderstanding and miscommunication problem," expressed Bishop, who proposed that Dalton look into having Berkshire Regional Planning Commission administer the grant funding that the Green Committee is currently involved in administering. Rather than disband the committee, he suggested that they wait for their next town manager to be installed and assess the committee's role going forward.
Other members voiced concerns more forcefully.
"I think we have a serious problem here, that's been going on for several years," said Select Board member John Boyle, who said the petition brought forward demanded action.
Members of the committee, which was formed by resident Cheryl Rose in 2013, have been accused of "openly defaming" town employees, and have lobbed criticism at the Select Board as well. In its televised December meeting, Rose expressed her lack of confidence "in our Select Board being competent to make decisions and get stuff done."
The petition from department heads represents a second strike for the volunteer panel; a memorandum from Dalton's health agent Ed Fahey complained about the way the committee was performing in its advisory capacity to the Board of Health, suggesting it be dissolved.
"This abusive language and criticism of other members of the town government has got to stop," said Boyle. "I don't blame people for calling us incompetent, that goes with the turf, but not hard working people that come to their job every day at Town Hall, they shouldn't have to put up with this.
Boyle proposed that he and Bishop meet privately with the committee's chair, Joseph Fish, and "lay down the law."
"Maybe it is time for some healthy turnover on the committee," added Select Board member Dan Esko.
Boyle contended there were as many as six former committee members who had left it due to "the atmosphere," who might be willing to return if "certain people were to leave."
With a consensus that involvement in administrating the Green Communities state grant should be taken out of the committee's purview, Select Board member Joe Diver questioned what function the committee would actually have if it continues. He proposed "pausing the committee" until after the new town manager is installed.
"We do need to identify and really come to agreement on what the purpose of the committee is, and I think the town manager can have a huge role in that," concurred Esko.
At the conclusion of discussion, the Select Board agreed to leave the ultimate fate of the committee undecided for now. Instead, Bishop and Boyle will meet with its chair about the tone and conduct of the committee, and report back to the rest of the Select Board at its next meeting.
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