Selectmen differ on how to approach town utilities
Published 11:37 am, Wednesday, February 21, 2018
NEW CANAAN — The Utilities Commission currently lacks a quorum but Selectman Kit Devereaux wants to bring it back to life, opposing the First Selectman’s plans to let it go dormant.
Devereaux voiced her concerns at a Board of Selectmen meeting last week when First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, who is in favor of chartering a Selectmen Advisory Technology Committee, was absent.
“The Utilities Commission was created with the purpose of monitoring the activities and operations of various utilities and I think there’s a place for that in town for residents to voice their concerns,” Devereaux said.
Moynihan had floated the idea of creating a selectmen Technology Advisory Committee in December of last year. With the selectmen budget discussion now concluded, Moynihan is hoping to refocus on the idea and bring something to the selectmen meeting next week to discuss the chartering of the committee.
“I’m actively looking to find members for the five-member Technology Advisory Committee,” Moynihan said Tuesday. “I have three people so far and I think we could adopt a resolution creating the committee.”
The ordinance that created the Utilities Commission back in November 1986, according to chapter seven, article seven of the town’s ordinances. Under the commission’s purview are functions ranging from the telephone, gas and even the telegraph. Devereaux said that these items could be updated to better define the purpose of the commission.
“I think that these items would have to be looked at and maybe re-configured but there seems to me that there is a place in town for something like this commission,” Devereaux said.
At the meeting last week, Selectman Nick Williams said he supported Moynihan’s idea of establishing a Selectmen Advisory Committee though with the caveat that he doesn’t believe doing away with the commission on the books is a good thing.
“I don’t disagree with (Devereaux) that we should be careful in the changing of the system of ordinances,” Williams said.
Devereaux said that she favors a “more public and accessible vehicle” than an advisory committee to the Board of Selectmen. When asked how members could be encouraged to join, Devereaux said: “We would go to the Democratic Town Committee or the Republican Town Committee to explain what would be the purpose of the commission and then we would ask for appointees. I think people would step forward to do it.”
Moynihan is inclined towards chartering the committee and potentially reassigning solar energy initiatives to the Conservation Commission.
“The Technology Advisory Committee would serve a different function. We don’t have people coming in to complain about telephone or electric service to the Utilities Commission, it doesn’t serve a purpose,” Moynihan said.
In earlier reporting, Moynihan had said that the committee would not include public hearings unless the Town Council specifically added that to its charter, something Moynihan didn’t anticipate. Additionally, Moynihan had said that the Town Council is the body that would decide whether or not to repeal the ordinance that created the Utilities Commission though it could also be left dormant.
Asked about what the Technology Advisory Committee would focus on, Moynihan said it would be efficiency in town government.
“The committee would look at how to do things more efficiently with technology, how to reduce expenses and how to make it easier for town residents to deal with the town. An example would be monitoring town employees when they’re using personal vehicles to keep track of mileage. This has nothing to do with utilities, most technology makes our jobs easier to do,” Moynihan said.
The Utilities Commission saw the resignations of three members last year. Daniel Welch, JoAnne Kennedy and Tom Tesluk, former chairman of the commission, resigned on Sept. 25, Oct. 31 and Nov. 8, respectively. According to the town website, Robert Clay, Derek Bennett and Wade Eyerly are the three remaining members on the commission.