Friday, November 22, 2013

Eating Crow For Thanksgiving



Councilor Nikolla’s words from the night of the vote on the Casella contract still echo in my ears. “I’ve read this contract. This is a good contract.”

I was among a number of those who disagreed with this assessment. The most ardent of the opponents were John Gatti, Jr., and Larry and Ann Beinema. We all suffered for our outspoken disagreement with the merits of that contract.

Monday night the chickens set loose by the decision to adopt the contract came home to roost.

Contrary to the widely held belief that the landfill would provide a stream of revenues for 20 to 30 years, the council learned that the current capacity would be depleted in about six years.

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The shock and consternation that greeted this news was palpable. 

From the standpoint of the Town Manager this was not a surprise. As he saw it, the contract always provided for an expansion of tonnage. It was reasonable to expect that such an expansion would reduce the life expectancy of the landfill.

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But those of us who had disputed the assumptions underlying the adoption of the contract knew that the town was being sold a bill of goods.

I, for one, attempted to illustrate this through an interactive EXCEL simulation that contained these variable parameters. My efforts were dismissed as consisting of made up numbers.

















One of the strongest champions of the Casella agreement, as indicated by the opening quote, was councilor Nikolla.

Having initially run for office on a platform to remove then Town Manager Clayton Carlisle, she quickly became one of his most ardent supporters. Along with that she also became a devoted supporter of his plan to have Casella take over the landfill from Wood Recycling. The net result was the contract, and the revelations, we now have.

After nearly a decade of belittling those who disagreed with her she was all shock and awe at Monday night’s meeting.


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At the close of the meeting, however, she returned to her typical unapologetic character. She still did the right thing. She was stressed by not merely hearing this news about the landfill, but also by losing HER Town Manager.


She would walk away from this fiasco and go home and watch other people clean up the mess she played such a large part in creating.

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Councilor Nikolla made it clear that she would oppose any expansion of the landfill footprint. All well and good, but perhaps a little too late. Town Manager Clark pointed out during the meeting that the town has been getting – and spending – a significant amount of money from the landfill.

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Charles Colson, former adviser to President Nixon, famously had a cartoon on his office wall. The caption read. “When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

The next council meeting will set the tax rate for the coming year. Consider what that event will entail when we are looking at a year ahead without landfill revenues.

What will our options be then?

Let us express our thanks to Councilor Nikolla for all her efforts to deliver our collective genitalia into the all so gentle grasp of Casella.

Enjoy your well-deserved retirement from politics.

24 comments:

  1. too bad this witch hunt caused the airport manager to loose the love he had for this town as well as the airport he devoted his life to. Nice Job Clark ... hope to hear of karma biting you.

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    1. The Airport Manager has no reason to dislike Southbridge, but has EVERY reason to be disgusted with the Eddie Haskell of Town Managers, Christopher Clark. The vast majority of people I know agree that due to the putrid odors from the landfill, and especially due to the Insurance money for the hangers being spent on bringing in water that is the fault of the landfill, that withholding rent is totally justified.
      How clever of Clark to reward his lawyer buddies with additional work. If we don't alreadypay out $3 in legal fees for every $1 Clark earns I'd be shocked. A fortune was spent getting rid of Annie Beinama, Ken O'Brien, and Paul Zotos. All people that tried to save the Town from landfill problems.
      Will Clark get paid for his time when the Town gets sued for trying to break its lease at the airport to make room for trash?

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  2. Your recollection of Councilor Nikolla's claim that it was a good contract is my SECOND most memorable Nikolla meory from that time. As many of us may recall, she claimed that if Casella fails to keep the contract in any way "They are out of here".

    From her mouth to Lord Clark's ears. Adios to the garbage gas frackers. Let them burn their gas, let them collect our trash until THAT contract expires. Let the Board of Health remove the 405,000 tons a year Site Assignment and reduce it to 45,000 tons based on the failure to honor the Site Assignment conditions and allow the TOWN DPW to run the scales and the Landfill itself.

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  3. I would like to remind everyone that Chernisky wanted to put all the Casella money in the stock market . And now he wants to be Clerk of the fireworks? All I can say is lookout !

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    1. Well, well ,well Cassella wants a little more of our town to pollute. And there are surprised councilors, but not a surprised town manager. Why do we think he went after the air port manager so hot and heavy? And didn't councilor Langevin buy into doing something else with the airport. The airport manager is a native son and he stepped in to help the town not once, not twice but three times to rescue the airport after the town had awarded it to someone else. He has devoted 30 years of his life to the airport. Who would spend endless days up there working? Is the new airport manager prepared to do this? Was he told it was a temporary issue? Who paid for this person to get the credentials to be able to be an airport manager. I think Southbridge should make Cassella pay dearly for breaking the contract with the town and look out because we may have to pay dearly for breaking the contract with the airport manager. The violations that Mr. Clark alleged in the news was that the rent was behind but the news also reported that the rent had been caught up. Then there is the matter of the grass, did some one go up there and measure it? Is there a definitive length it has to be? The planes land on the run way so what is the grass deal? OH! And it was reported that that isn't really a violation of the contract. Of course there is the matter of the runway light but that is also fixed so that leaves the label issue. Well I have watched town meeting where Mr. Clark was asked on more then one occasion to look into something or to address and issue and his way out is " I have to admit I have been remiss on this" Did that violate his contract? We will be much better off so I want to say a heart felt "Thank you" to what ever town on the cape that is taking him away from here. It is not out loss he was another town manager with no vested interest in this town. Did he move his family here? Did his children attend school here? Has he paid real estate taxes here. The answer to that is a resounding no. So good bye Mr. Clark, you can't leave soon enough.

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    2. Ron wanted to reserve half of all landfill royalties in a special account in anticipation of the budget hit the town would eventually have to absorb when the landfill ultimately closed. This account exists today and can only be accessed by a 2/3 vote of the council. At least that's the way things are supposed to work. The TM managed to get a legal opinion that concluded that since the landfill royalties are part of the regular budget, only a simple majority vote of the council is required to use 100% of the royalties. Once again, a way was found around both state law and the town council's own rules. Not a peep from a majority of the council when objections were raised to this trickery. And so it goes.

      What did we get for violating our own rules? Nothing. Hard decision about the budget were put off and would be made, we were told, once the economy improved. Not a penny invested in the town's future. The entire landfill windfall was consumed by the town's operating budget, as Ron feared would happen unless some of the funds were placed in an account that could only be accessed by a super majority vote. Ron never could have foreseen we'd have a council and a town manager that would simply ignore a special act of the legislature. Unbelievable, yet it happened and continues to happen.

      There's still a faction that believes the purpose of the council is to support the town manager. Now that the guy they held in such high esteem is leaving this sinking ship, I hope they are reevaluating their position. I also hope the next town manager has a real commitment to this town rather than viewing the job as a stepping stone to a fatter paycheck.

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  4. I want to compliment Gus Steeves on his opinion page article in today’s Southbridge Evening News. It represents a good, well –reasoned, basis for looking at a way to move forward on the landfill issue.

    I would take issue with only one of his observations. “Let’s take Councilor Cathy Nikolla’s honesty as a springboard forward. On Monday, she admitted, ‘I’m not sure I made all the right decisions based on the information that was provided to me. … I did feel this was a good thing, but now, maybe not.’”

    I would not credit Councilor Nikolla’s “honesty” any more than I would credit the “honesty” of Toronto Mayor Ford in owning up to bad judgment when the unmistakable and irrefutable facts become evident for all to see. Nor would I forgive their abusive behavior toward others and their relentless arrogance prior to the emergence of the truth.

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    1. At least Ford straightened out Toronto's finances.

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  5. Time for the Attorney General to investigate these "dealings." Can legal actions be taken against these council members? Unfortunately, I don't think there are laws against stupid.

    Nikolla's fat mouth just keeps blabbing. She is an embarrassment to the good people of Southbridge. Remember her disgusting comments regarding the folks on Pine Street?

    Arrogance + stupidity = Nikolla

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  6. This blog moderator seems to be very knowledgeable about this issue and the councilors who were present for this vote on the contract extension. Too bad he quit the council.

    I would like to know who the councilors were who voted for the extension, and those who didn't.

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    1. From the Town Council Minutes for the meeting of May 21, 2007:
      Agenda Item #8 (as amended). Vote that the Town Council hereby authorizes the Town Manager, on behalf of the Town, to enter into an Extension of Agreement for the Operation of the Barefoot Road Sanitary Landfill, and Refuse and Recyclables Collection (the Agreement) with Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park, Inc. (SRD), as negotiated by the Town Manager and the negotiating teams, pursuant to which Agreement SRD shall operate the landfill, located on the property on Barefoot Road that is described in a deed recorded with the Worcester South District Registry of Deeds in Book 7008, Page 91, in accordance with the terms and conditions set forth in such Agreement, and further to authorize the Town Manager to sign such other documents and to take all related actions as may be necessary or appropriate to effectuate the aforesaid Agreement, provided that the Town Council's approval of the contract is subject to inclusion of the annual percentage increase provision presented to Council this evening, subject to verification by the Town Attorney. Vote by roll call, Councilors in favor: Chernisky, Ferron, King, Livengood, and Nikolla. Councilors opposed: Langevin, Lazo, Marcucci, and McDonald. Vote passes.

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    2. Well two of the members who voted in favor live out of town now. The other three should be held accountable.

      I think and investigations by DEP and the AG are in order.

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  7. TOWN COUNCIL OF THE WHOLE MEETING MINUTES, MONDAY, MARCH 3, 2008
    Councilor O’Brien stated he was giving proper and appropriate notice to rescind the vote taken on 5/21/07. Please see attachment #2 for the notice provided. Councilor O’Brien stated the Southbridge Town Council had an appropriate role in representing the voice of the people in this ongoing process, and he asked any citizen to contact their councilor to support this motion.
    Councilor Livengood asked what would be the legal and financial costs to the town to rescind the vote. Attorney Giorgio stated there would arise significant legal issues, and he would feel more comfortable advising the Council in Executive Session at the appropriate time, so he can speak candidly and freely. Attorney Giorgio stated that a vote on this would affect the value of a town asset, and no more public discussion of this was advisable at this point. Attorney Giorgio stated the original agreement was authorized by the Town Council and executed by the Town Manager.

    The Council Chairman declined to add this item to the next meeting’s agenda on advice of counselor Giorgio.

    At the meeting of May 19, 2008 a side letter was put forward by acting town manager Healey which, among other things eliminated the condition of the contract which made the site assignment approval no longer a condition of the effective date of the contract. This action guaranteed that the vote to accept the contract could no longer be rescinded. From the minutes of that meeting, “Agenda Item #21. Vote to authorize the Town Manager to execute the Side Letter to the Extension Agreement with Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park, Inc. (SRD). A motion was made by Councilor King, seconded by Councilor Chernisky, to vote this item.
    Councilor O'Brien stated he believed this item should be put off until the Board of Health reaches their decision on the site assignment for Casella. Councilor O'Brien made a motion to table this until after 6/13/08, seconded by Councilor Lazo. Vote to table, by roll call, Councilors in favor: Lazo, O'Brien, Vandal. Councilors opposed: Chernisky, King, Livengood, McDonald, Nikolla, and Regis. Vote fails.
    Agenda Item #21 (as above). Vote by roll call, Councilors in favor: Chernisky, King, Livengood, McDonald, Nikolla, O'Brien, and Regis. Councilors opposed: Lazo, Vandal. Vote passes.”

    I only voted in favor on the second vote in the hope of being able to move to reconsider as a member of the prevailing side. However, I could not get support for such an action.

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    1. Here's the text of the side letter:
      June 6, 2008

      John F. Healey
      Town Manager
      Town of Southbridge
      41 Elm
      Southbridge, MA 01550
      RE: Southbridge Landfill-Posting of Financial Assurance
      Dear Jack:
      Pursuant to the ongoing discussions between the Town of Southbridge ("Town") and Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park Inc. ('ISR,D") with regard to what have been referring to as the Agreement", dated May 29,2007, SRD proposes the following letter agreement. Please indicate your on behalf of the Town to the of letter agreement by below in the space provided.
      Pursuant to Section 2.1 of the Extension Agreement, two conditions must be met before the Extension Agreement can become effective. First, SRD must have received all the Required Approvals in a form reasonably satisfactory to SRD, and second, the Town must have received the Required Submittals (the Guaranty Agreement, the certificates of insurance, and the two performance bonds required under sections 3.4(e) and 25.1 of the Extension Agreement) a form reasonably satisfactory to the Town. By signing this letter, SRD and the Town agree that the conditions contained in Section 2.1 of the Agreement have been met to the reasonable satisfaction of both SRD and the Town. Therefore, it is agreed that agrees to the originals of to Town to 5:00 P.M. on Monday, June 9, 2008.
      In addition, it is the intent of SRD and the Town to replace the Town's existing financial assurance mechanism (FAM) required by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection with a FAM backed by SRD. This will result in the release of funds for the Town's use, which currently held in a fund", reserved to cover the FAM. The Town represents that dissolution of the enterprise fund under these circumstances has been approved by the Department of Revenue.
      Therefore, by signing below, the Town and SRD agree SRD will execute new standby trust agreement with the Department, and post a bond (or bonds) in the amount of $8,411,650, which is the total financial assurance required by the department. The Town agrees to immediately pay $2,162,315 to SRD from the fund, which amount reflects the total liability for SRD's past costs incurred to date for closure and post-closure activities at the Landfill, and the Town will then dissolve the enterprise fund.
      SRD agrees that it will make no further requests from the Town with regard to any additional costs for those activities.
      If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (802) 775-0325 or jim.bohlig@casella.com.

      Sincerely,
      SIGNATURE
      Jim Bohlig
      Vice President

      SIGNATURE
      John F. Healey
      Town Manager
      Town Of Southbridge
      June 6, 2008



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  8. This is outrageous. If you want to know what is wrong with this town just look at the fact that this woman was not just reelected repeatedly. She was actually made chairman of our town council. She made sure that she took care of her family members. In the mean time she cozied up to two town managers and saw to it that they got everything that they wanted. All the while she talked down to anybody who disagreed with her, saw to it that those who opposed her were punished and gloried in the power she had and her ability to grant favors to friends and supporters. Now we are on the verge of having to keep the landfill and expand it or face the consequences of years of spending money that will shortly run out. When that happens we will either have to cut all those town hall employees, cops and firemen or raise property taxes to a degree that will further depress home values. Thank you Cathy for nothing. I don’t feel the least bit sorry for the heat that you took. The problem was that there wasn’t enough heat to drive you out of office after one term before you could inflict all this damage on Southbridge. And shame on all you idiots who kept voting for her. I hope you learned something this week, but I doubt it.

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  9. Nicolla is nothing more than a misandrist bee-itch. As somebody once said, democracy is a system of government that gives you what you deserve.

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    1. Thanks for making me look up "misandrist".

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  10. After all the good that her family did for this town it is sad to see her ride that legacy into the septic sludge she sponsored.

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  11. I remember running for State Rep and made the Southbridge landfill one of the things I felt were important to the town. Funny thing was, I could not get one person interested, or get anyone to talk to me about it. Guess complacency and a town council that bought into what will eventually be an enviromental disaster just was not a big deal after all. Guess you get what you pay for or fail to pay attention to.

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  12. I never voted for anything to do with the landfill when i was on council and always had this towns best interest at hand, But so much for that... And voted the carpetbaggers in office and voted the hometown people out. So hows that working for you smart people in Southbridge you all deserve the hosers that are there right now with the exception of Vandal, This is going to be a town with gas stations pizza parlors and doughnuts shops pharmacies now thats an economic boom. Maybe get rid of that empty downtown because one yellow church just isnt going to do it......

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    1. Should we have to guess who you are?

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  13. Do you mean if you let more tons of crap enter the landfill the faster it will fill up? WOW - go figure! Didn't see that one coming.

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  14. What this town needs is a humble understanding of what it has turned into because of the leadership under the town council over the past 5 years.. Our Land values and real estate values have plumetid..Our taxes have nearly doubled.Many of our roads South street especially are so under dis repair that a personal injury law suite is just around the corner The saleries of the DPW Head and the dpw foreman are rediculous over inflated.We pay top dollar for lown mower jocks leaf sweepers,and hide and seek personal at the town barn, cemitery,and water supply filtration plant..all summer and fall long..They don't maintain our streets what so ever potholes go un repaired for months at a time..
    .I would first limit the powers of a town manager dramaticly when it came to apointments...I would ask the state to audit his department and appointments over the past 5 years..and eliminate the many positions that suck the life out of all of us finacially.I would fire the Dpw foreman he is a road coach for lazy behavior..Then I would look into a call fire department...That would send a message to the many other people who work for us and take every advantage they can of us finacially by running there own buisinesses on the side while we pay them millions to sleep all night and wach TV all day..

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  15. I lived on Pleasant St. for 15 years. The first 10 were enjoyable. Then Wood Recycling came to town. A group of 10 home owners joined together and tried to put a halt to Southbridge becoming the northeast's biggest landfill. The town council and at the time town manager (Floerence Chandler) ignored our concerns and along with every one else in town that did not live on Pleasant St. laughed at us and told us if we didn't like it we could move. (exact words from town councilor Rene Tremblay). Well us ten went to court, sued, won, and then moved. Our facts and information were right on target. as to what was going to happen did come to fruitation. I moved across the line and now reside in Ct. I had the laugh of my lifetime when I found out that my household garbage and waste is transported to----WHERE ELSE?---Southbridge landfill. Talk about karma and life coming full circle. It is with great pleasure that I take my weekly refuse to my towns transfer station, I know it's going to a nice home! ENJOY!!

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