The Strategic Planning Committee has not met since our last full council meeting but there have been developments, some of them serious, and I’d like to read a statement about them.
As you know the core of our strategic planning strategy has been to engage the Hampshire County legislative delegation and Hampshire communities as we try to plan for a sustainable future for HCG. We began this process last August with a conversation with the legislative delegation at Senator Rosenberg’s office in Northampton. We later engaged consultant Ann Latham for an appraisal and of HCG’s situation. Based on her very sobering response, we drafted another letter to the entire delegation in the late Fall of 2017. Subsequently, we heard from a subset of the legislators who serve most of Hampshire County asking to start the process working with them; and they would engage the rest of the delegation as needed. This began a series of informal face-to-face and telephone meetings to brainstorm and discuss potential options for HCG. We first asked if they thought there was any funding available to help Finance the planning process as the proposal we received was beyond our budget. We then discussed possibilities of shifting the liabilities to other agencies as was done elsewhere when the State abolished county governments. Later, we asked if they thought the entire legislature could support House Bill HB 4000, which would provide additional revenue that could mitigate the costs of the ongoing legacy liabilities. We also asked if they thought there was any possibility of drafting legislation that might spread the liabilities more broadly. Unfortunately, the answers to each of those questions were “no”. We agreed a “path forward” would be a difficult challenge and discussed what might happen if HCG could not survive as currently structured.
Based on those conversations, the Strategic Planning Committee drafted its letter to towns in an effort to convey that urgency and to ask for their participation in finding a solution. Obviously, that effort has not had the desired effect.
This Tuesday, we received a copy of a letter from the 6 House Members saying that our letter to the towns was misleading in that they never suggested that in the absence of HCG that the legacy liabilities would fall to the towns.
Apparently, I mis-heard or seriously misinterpreted what I thought I heard during my conversations with the legislators. For that, I apologize. My credibility and judgement are now understandably in question and that is why I’m resigning as Chair and withdrawing from the Strategic Planning Committee. It is impossible to see how I can be effective in that role given these circumstances. Further, I plan to inform the Chesterfield Select Board and Town Administrator of my intention to step down as Councilor effective June 30th.
Sadly, the discussion of who said what is largely irrelevant to the problem at hand. HCG either needs financial relief or major restructuring. The urgency of that need and a request for participation as we seek to address it, was all the letter to towns was meant to do.
In closing, it appears to me at least, that no one is coming to the aid of HCG. My advice, obviously now of questionable value, is to radically restructure or even dissolve HCG but to do your best to preserve the excellent work HCG does in sustainable energy, group purchasing, senior volunteer management and tobacco avoidance; to find homes for that work as well as the dedicated employees who perform it.
I know that some of this may be discussed in the upcoming executive session, but I’ve had enough for tonight.
Again, my apologies for anything I misheard or misinterpreted, and the problems and stress that may have resulted for you and our legislators.