Cohasset Capital Budget Meeting 9/21/11

Cohasset Capital Budget (CB) will take under advisement a request to approve an expenditure of $200,000 by the Cohasset Sewer Commission (CSC) for work done outside the scope of the Little Harbor Sewer project. Note: there are 2 Coughlins in this artice: Mike Coughlin, Cohasset Town Manager and Dan Coughlin, engineer for the sewer department. See related article:

In answer to questions from CB, Sewer Commissioner Wayne Sawchuk explained that this was not an expansion of the project. Sawchuk explained that contractors did their jobs and then patched roadways after their part was completed.


Dan Coughlin of Coughlin and Coughlin Engineering said the problem happened after the contractors were done, saying that “the structural base (of the roads) weren’t very strong,” and when other contractors showed up such as Verizon, Comcast, Gas, Cohasset Water, the roads began to break down.

“The Sewer Department shouldn’t be paying for broken water lines, ” Sawchuk said.

Mark Brennan, Special Assistant to the Town Manager, noted that ledge is a contributing factor in Cohasset. “You can’t get a straight-edge trench.” Dan Couglin said they only had one street with ledge, and that “ledge” was not really a problem.

Steve Gaumer, Cohasset Capital Budget Chair, said his committee was confused, that several months ago they were told that it was a ledge problem. “Now we’re hearing that the sewer money was bundled with other work around the town. I would appreciate some hard data supporting this request.”

CB Member Scott Henry said he’d like a pie chart, showing where the work had occurred, if paperwork was not available.

Sawchuk noted that he had served on CBV for three years and didn’t remember the committee making such demands. He felt their remarks were investigatory.

“Overages were high-jacked from this bond (Little Harbor Sewer Bond), “Gaumer said, noting that his committee reported to town meeting which expected due diligence from town experts. “Either you expanded the contract or this is a lack of supervision.”

Town Manager Mike Coughlin said in the future all contracts are the Town Manager’s responsibility. “A lot of horses got out the barn. The guy taking the heat here tonight should be the (former) town manager, and he was told this.” Coughlin added that cost over-runs in every pubic project were commonplace. “It’s (always) a shot in the dark.”

CB Member Jack Keniley said he thought 95% of the problem facing them was basically an accounting issue. “But I see this as one big grab bag, all the change orders came in at the end. The last change order was for $170,000.”

Gaumer said, in response to Dan Coughlin’s remark that this project was $1.5M under budget, “then we can expect a turn-back of $1.5 M.” (Everybody smiled.)

CB meets with John Stanbrook, Town Accountant

Stanbrook told CB he needs money for tax title searches. “Liens run out when ownership changes. He said the town has several very old tax titles that never moved into a lien and some of this problem is a result of the mortgage lender foreclosure proceedings. He said it is possible to buy title insurance, if you’re got cash.  (Everyone smiled.) Stanbrook added that he didn’t believe the Town had ever foreclosed on anyone….but then “the records are less than optimal.”

Town Manger (TM) M Coughlin said there would again be a water department deficit and there were continuing sewer problems and “We don’t have a financial staff to get the job done,” adding that a Treasurer/Collector is missing. An accounting professional has been hired to bring the books up to date with regard to Schedule A, two undocumented sewer bonds, and water lien acquisitions.  M Coughlin told selectmen Tuesday night that he estimated he would need approximately $50,000 to close the books in over the next 10 weeks. There will be a Special Town Meeting request for professional services, a “one-time” event.  The STM can’t be held until the books are closed, so M Coughlin is thinking the meeting will take place in mid-December.

M Coughlin is also sees, as a public safety emergency, new guns and bullets and training for the police department, and infrared cameras for the fire department ($112,000) for public safety: emergency center and dump truck, etc.

Keniley asked if they should be anticipating an override at Annual town Meeting. “We will not be able to fund them,” he said.

“You can’t tell me a tennis court is more important,” M Cloughlin said

“We’re hamstrung, we can’t do anything without a Town Meeting vote,”Gaumer said. At which point the Fire Chief said “We have no money.”

Gaumer said “There are critical needs here. I don’t want to be a roadblock. But these things must come out of the budget.

“There are no phones in here, no computers to support the new financial system,” Keniley noted,

While the Capital Budget has $400,000, only Town Meeting can release it,” Gaumer said. With new growth (estimated at $600,000) there is some leeway. Gaumer said Capital Budget pays bonding projects on an on-going basis. “The balance Capital Budget has at the present time is sufficient to cover next year’s requirements, and that’s all.”

“Some of these things may be in the 2013 budget,” the Town Manager said, adding that there were severe operational shortcomings: emergency center problems (leaks, outlets, not enough room to hold 25 people, no communications, police department needs weapons and weapons training.

Capital Budget said none of this was in its preview. “They are all budget items,” Gaumer said, saying some of this looked like “mission creep.”  (Mission creep is when people or departments collect things and then don’t repair them, or need them, Gaumer said. ) Keniley mentioned the two generators in the guard room at town hall, with 2.5 hours on them. The Town Manager admitted, “They’re useless.” But he defended the two Humvees he got from Army Surplus, saying one was for parts. He said they were not a capital item because they were donated.

“When the vehicle dies, can we live without it?” Gaumer asked. Fire Chief Bob Silva said they would get just another one, donated. Gaumer said he was upset about hearing about the donation through an E-mail. Keniley agreed: “There’s been no budgeting, no planning.”

The TM agreed to create an inventory of all equipment owned by the Town.  Capital Budget would also like to know how many people are employed by the Town, as no one has ever known.

The next meeting will be in October at a date to be determined.

© Copyright 2011 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed