Sunday, March 13, 2011

Profiles In Discouraged – Part VI

One Step Above Slavery

Kenneth M. O’Brien

People talk incessantly about saving “our town”.
The fact is, it’s no longer “our town”.

It hasn’t been since May of 2007.

That was when the contract between the town of Southbridge and Casella Waste Systems was adopted.

I am sure that there are many who will say that I am exaggerating.

I’m not.

You see, we signed a contract.

But that contract is absolutely meaningless. At least as far as “the people” are concerned.

The reason is a clause in the contract that reads as follows:

            30.1 This extension Agreement cannot be changed orally, but only by agreement in writing signed by the party against whom enforcement of the change, modification or discharge is sought or by its duly authorized agent.”

The “duly authorized agent” for Southbridge is the Town Manager. That means that anything to which the Town Manager and Casella agree overrides any provisions of the contract.

The first case of this was the “side letter” between interim town manager John Healey and Casella of June 6, 2008.that effectively changed the effective date of the contract prior to receiving all required site assignment approvals..

Since then we’ve seen alterations in the posting of the financial assurance mechanism, the abolition of the Recycle Bank Program, the attempt to impose the “Smart Cart” program, modifications in the reimbursement of town incurred debt, failure to fine Casella for the dumping of unauthorized waste, and threats to “fine” Southbridge residents for not conforming to the dictates of our “Recycling Coordinator” while leaving out-of-town violators unscathed.

In the process, the revenues that were originally promised for this “contract” have steadily diminished, as has the projected life span of the landfill.

Simultaneously, our population has shrunk (they were the smart ones), businesses have vanished (they couldn’t survive), property tax rates and water and sewer rates have skyrocketed, and property values have plummeted – all far in excess of the national averages.

It’s a widely acknowledged axiom that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and to expect a different result.

Well, let’s just keep on keeping on. Let’s keep our Town Manager and his indebtedness to our corporate benefactor as well as the legal advisors who gave us this gift.

Let’s keep electing those who support this agenda.

Above all, let’s hope that we can get a program in transitional education that will teach us how to profit as sharecroppers in a landscape of trash.

After all, sharecroppers are better than slaves, right?

1 comment:

  1. Ken, I do understand your point. These are my thoughts:

    I agree with you insofar as the canceling of the Recycle Bank program is concerned, if and only if, a formal signed document between Clark and Casella exists. Since both incorporated entities are affected by these changes, one must have proposed it and the other signed it. In this case, Casella has explicitly stated that Southbridge requested the change. Please see article below:

    According to this information, the document must be submitted by Southbridge (or Clark, its authorizing agent) and signed by Casella. Clark was/is also required to promptly notify the council of any such business being conducted.

    I also believe that since such a move is clearly to the detriment of the citizens of Southbridge and to the advantage of a private entity, that any such document could be used as grounds for a class action lawsuit, a formal ethics complaint and possibly a conflict of interest investigation against Clark.

    It is also my belief that everything that is being done does not qualify solely as a "change, modification or discharge" of the existing contract. The need to address 30.1 is a byproduct of new contracts and services rendered.

    Neither the Smart Cart program, nor the partnership between our health department and Casella are products of Clause 30.1., though they would then require a subsequent modification of the contract.

    The proposed Smart Cart program is a wholly new contract for services. In order for it to be adopted, it would require its own ratification by the town council. I also believe it would require a bylaw change because it introduces a new fee and fine structure that penalizes residents. Once again, so far as the existing contract is concerned, one of the incorporated entities, Southbridge or Casella, must seek the change and the other entity or its duly authorized agent must sign it.

    The thinkreduce website and partnership with Casella is an alteration of an official department of the Town of Southbridge, specifically the Department of Health. It is also a new contract for services that to my knowledge, has never been ratified. Though, this would once again require a signed document proposed by one entity and signed by another, it also must first pass through the proper process of our town government. Since no such process has taken place, there can be no legal proposal/signature of the change made by either Southbridge or Casella as per 30.1.


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