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Town Meeting 12/23/15

December 23, 2015 Town Meeting

Written by Meghan B. Peterson.

On Wednesday, December 23, 2015 the Board of Selectmen convened a town meeting. The meeting posed three separate items on which the townspeople needed to vote:

  • Accept 0.31 acres located on the north side of Gunger Hill Road to be conveyed to Haddam (in order to provide an additional right of way)
  • Accept 0.06 acres of property located on the southeast side of Park Road to Haddam (in order to make road improvements)
  • Approve Haddam’s withdrawal from the Chatham Health District

Voters passed all three items. As has previously been reported, 77 residents attended. The turnout is noteworthy for an event held two days before the Christmas holiday. Town Meeting 12-23-15

Ed Munster, from the Haddam Civic League video-taped the meeting. Melissa Schlag, former First Selectman and current Haddam Bulletin staff member, video-taped the meeting as well.

First Selectman Lizz Milardo opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. Harlan Fredericksen, of the Board of Finance, was selected as moderator.

Harlan Frederickson

Harlan Fredericksen

Fredericksen took each item in turn. The vote for the town to accept the 0.31 acre  conveyance on Gunger Hill Road from Rogers Realty Company to Haddam did not occur until after much discussion had ensued. Several residents on Gunger Hill Road expressed significant concern about the implications of the conveyance. They wanted assurances that the conveyance of property for a Right of Way would not entail future land grabs by the town. Jeff Jacobson, the Town Engineer, spoke at length as to the fact that there are no current plans for that parcel other than for a right of way (to allow passage for emergency vehicles). Residents expressed skepticism as to the absence of plans for making more land acquisitions in the future. They stated a desire for written guarantees providing certainty against future property acquisitions on Gunger Hill Road. At one point, Liz Glidden, Town Planner, was asked to clarify about these road matters. Glidden explained that these roads have in fact been town roads historically. An individual from the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company stated that he and others in the company were told that the right of way was solely to provide emergency vehicles and their trucks access in cases of need. After discussion closed, voters approved the item via voice vote.

As with the first item, the vote to accept the 0.06 acre conveyance and permanent easement to the town did not occur without substantive discussion. Jason Brown, a resident on Park Road, voiced opposition to the hammer head turnaround being proposed as part of the conveyance and easement. Mr. Brown noted that this ultimately would result in closure of that part of the road. He observed that no fatal accidents had occurred. Another resident added that she did not understand why the town could not simply make certain roads one way – rather than going through all of these hoops. She cited Quarry Hill Road as a perfect candidate for a one-way road. Other residents chimed in agreement with that point. First Selectman Milardo and Town Planner Glidden agreed that a town wide evaluation of road safety needed to be conducted. Turning roads into one-way streets would possibly be important parts of a road safety program for Haddam. A voice vote was taken, but it was too difficult to discern the outcome. A hand vote was then taken. The item was passed.

Finally, Haddam’s withdrawal from Chatham Health District (CHD) came up for a vote. First Selectman Milardo provided a brief explanation of the reasons behind bringing this matter before the public. HaddamNow has done extensive coverage on the issue.

The state Department of Public Health was withholding funds from CHD pending resignation of Director Thad King. According to a December 15, 2015 article in The Hartford Courant, Thad King resigned in light of allegations that he “mixed personal and health department business.” King had been the district health director for 13 years (when CHD was founded) – serving the towns of Colchester, East Hampton, East Haddam, Haddam, Hebron, Marlborough, and Portland.

Former Haddam First Selectman Melissa Schlag chaired the board for two years (2013-2015). In the words of one Portland resident, the Chatham Health District board had known about the allegations and subsequent investigation for “months.” See this link. Among the allegations that state DPH Commissioner Jewel Mullen cited Thad King are:

  • Failure to devote his entire time to the job as specified
  • Improper or fraudulent use, or both, of privileges at the DPH laboratory
  • Using district employees for non-Chatham and/or personal business purposes
  • Using Chatham stationery, email and other property for non-Chatham and/or personal business matters
  • Engaging as a certified water operator while Chatham health director, creating conflict of interest potential[1]

CHD has run into severe financial problems. It now has only $10,000 in the bank. That amount does not cover payroll – let alone bills or grant-writing efforts.

Although Haddam can choose to return to CHD, it does not have the option to exit the district once the December 31, 2015 deadline to make a decision passes. Hence, the urgent timing of the town meeting.

Several residents voiced anger, disappointment, and concern about CHD. They recounted experiences with CHD – describing poor service, slow service, rudeness on the part of CHD personnel, and personnel’s lack of knowledge about regulations. For example, Gail Reynolds, manager of the Higganum Farmer Market, described the lack of transparency and long delays in getting answers from CHD on questions of new fees and regulations imposed on the market. As another example, owners of the Nehemiah Brainerd Inn recounted how a CHD worker had transmitted “100%” inaccurate information about regulations. Upon doing their own research, they realized that the person was incorrect on each and every code in question.

After further discussion in which resident after resident described their negative experiences, Town Clerk Scott Brookes observed that he had not heard one positive remark on the topic. A resident stated that the vote was simply to open options for Haddam – the town could always go back to CHD.

The item to withdraw from CHD passed with near unanimity. Two voted no to the withdrawal.

[1] http://www.courant.com/health/hc-chatham-health-district-director-1216-20151215-story.html.

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8 Responses to Town Meeting 12/23/15

  1. Steve Bayley

    December 27, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    It was great to see so many people at a town meeting on a rainy night, 2 nights before Christmas.

    A point of order, when Lizz Milardo called for nominations for meeting moderator, she should have seen if there were other nominations. I am pretty sure Mr. Frederick would have been the only nomination and he was approved unanimously but there still should have been a call for other nominations.

    In my opinion the first and second voice votes sounded very similar but only the second vote went to a show of hands. To be fair, each question should have been a show of hands. I am pretty sure the first question would have also passed with a show of hands. You can review the town meeting video here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwMWTt9prC0

    As a relatively new resident to Haddam and not knowing much about Chatham Health I attended the town meeting to hopefully learn more about the current situation and what alternatives the town was looking into. At the December 15th special board of selectman meeting minutes , it was stated, “Residents had several questions of which Milardo stated she would have more information and numbers at the Town Meeting.” I read this and attended the town meeting hoping to hear a detailed presentation by the first selectman. I was disappointed when this did not happen.

    After hearing the numerous complaints from business owners I voted to leave Chatham Health. I hope the town leaders pursue all possibilities, including staying with Chatham Health, to make sure the town as a whole gets the health best services at the best cost. I am currently on the fence about staying or leaving because I can see the pros and cons of either choice. Over the next few months, hopefully information will be presented to make a choice easier.

    • HDadmin

      December 27, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      For clarification, that video was made by Haddam Bulletin staff. Though there is a town seal on the youtube page, it is not an official town video, and may have been edited.

      • Steve Bayley

        December 27, 2015 at 3:47 pm

        Please clarify. Why state that the video may have been edited? With that logic, Haddamnow should post a disclaimer on the videos that have been posted, that they may have been edited, since those are also not official town videos. I am not an expert on video, but it is pretty clear the audio/video is NOT edited. I can understanding pointing out it is not an official town video because with the seal, that can be miseading, but not sure why the authenticity of the video needs to be questioned.

        I attended the town meeting and it was my personal opinion that both voice votes were similar enough for a hand vote. I have attended numerous condominium board meetings and other town meetings and every time a voice vote had even a small number of no’s, a hand vote was taken just to be 100% sure because after the yes votes are stated, people have a tendency to yell no louder. I respect that others could have heard differently. I posted a link to the youtube video so those who could not attend could watch and listen to the town meeting.

        I stood next to Ed Munster, who as stated above, also videotaped the meeting and I look forward to that possibly edited video being posted to Haddamnow.

        • HDadmin

          December 27, 2015 at 8:55 pm

          Simply that it is not an official video and therefore there is a possibility that it was edited.

  2. Stanley Kurasinski

    December 28, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    i dont care who took the video! No one should edit any video of a town meeting that was to be shown to the public.

    ed note: editing may be done due to space limitations or to skip over routine items. HaddamNow will specify if any item was unedited or edited. We also designate reporter notes vs. official minutes.

    • HDadmin

      December 29, 2015 at 2:52 pm

      We didn’t say that the other video was edited, just that the possibility exists, since it’s neither an official town video nor under our purview, and it does not say one way or the other on the video.

  3. jon.sibley

    December 28, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    The vote at the Town Meeting on 12/23 to withdraw from the Chatham Health District was a big victory for the tax payers and citizens of Haddam. The town should have its own sanitarian or contract it with a civil engineering firm, however should NOT consider rejoining the Chatham Health District which is a bureaucracy not directly accountable to Haddam. The comments by the Acting Director of the C.H.D. to the town meeting could be summarizer as “stuff it!” and insulting. The organizational culture of C.H.D. is such that it will remain a problem for those who have to deal with it in the other member towns as it is a bureaucracy whose purpose is to feed itself from funds from the town allocations and collected permit fees. Also, the fact that the C.H.D. is essentially broke from mismanagement is another reason for Haddam to not even consider for one moment to rejoin the Chatham Health District.

  4. Stanley Kurasinski

    December 31, 2015 at 7:55 am

    The big question now is now! can the town do the job that Chatham was supposed to be doing without a tax increase to pay for it.