Selectman clash over Moujabber decision
A clash over the decision of the Copeland district plan review board's decision to reject the latest proposal for a building addition by Joseph Moujabber, a review of the town administrator's job performance, and a joint session with the wastewater commission were among the highlights at Tuesday's selectmen's meeting in Oak Bluffs.
The Copeland board rejected the latest plan from Mr. Moujabber Monday. The vote split 3-2 in favor of the plan, with two members not voting. Four votes, a majority of the seven-member board, are needed for the project to move forward. The latest plan calls for demolition of the partially built three-story structure that now sits on the Moujabber property, and construction of a 1,589-square-foot addition to the existing five-bedroom home. The project has been the subject of long, bitter, and costly litigation since building began in 2003.
After the rejection of his latest plan, Mr. Moujabber now has several options, among them, returning to the Copeland board with a different plan, or continuing litigation. It is more costly litigation that concerns selectman Greg Coogan.
"I am concerned, as a selectman and a taxpayer," said Mr. Coogan, who attended the Copeland board hearing. "What they're [Mr. Moujabber] proposing is not that much different than what's in that neighborhood. We won't have a very strong position, but we will have a costly position in terms of time and money."
The selectmen's representative and chairman of the Copeland board is Kerry Scott. When Mr. Coogan asked town administrator Michael Dutton for clarification on the time and the costs involved, Ms. Scott questioned whether the town administrator should answer the question.
"The entire process has been guided by the town counsel. At this point, we have a selectman interjecting himself into the process," said Ms. Scott. "Before we get into any discussion of litigation costs, before we know if there is any litigation, I don't think we should be discussing this."
In the end, Mr. Dutton offered a diplomatic answer. "It's part of an ongoing process," he said. "I wouldn't want to conjecture in public session."
With the flow
The board had an update from wastewater district commissioners Hans von Steiger and Gail Barmakian, as well as wastewater plant manager Joe Alosso. Mr. Alosso said he has begun the extensive process of developing a long-range waste development management plan. He warned that the town's capacity to treat sewage at the current plant is near capacity. "We have to be very selective in who we hook up," said Mr. Alosso. Mr. von Steiger said that for the first time the board recently rejected an applicant who wanted to connect to the town's sewer system. The commissioners rejected the application of a new church being planned off School Street, near the new library. Mr. von Steiger said the complex decision was made on the basis of uncertainty over the system's capacity and questions about which areas of the town could best benefit from the sewer system.
Selectmen released a job performance evaluation for Mr. Dutton, in his second year as town administrator. The administrator, who is also a lawyer, received an approval rating of 80 percent from selectmen who directly supervise him. The evaluation came in the form of a survey completed by selectmen, town department heads, chairmen of various town boards and committees, and others. From the group, excluding the selectmen, Mr. Dutton received an overall approval rating of 74 percent. The evaluation included questions about goal setting and achievement, town operations, financial management, staff leadership and supervision, board support and relations, public relations and communications, personal and professional growth, and personal characteristics. The grades ranged from 70 percent to 85 percent, with the lowest evaluation for town operations, and the highest for public relations and communication.
"It's very difficult to do evaluation in public sessions, so I'm conducting this very carefully," said Mr. DiOrio. "I do think it's important that our chief operating officer be evaluated by the people of the town."
"We've had some serious budget challenges," said Mr. Dutton. "We've had to do a lot, and we've accomplished a lot. The people who pay me should have the opportunity to provide constructive criticism. It's not a critique; it's a constructive process."
In other action, Mr. Dutton noted that at a previous meeting, in response to consumer complaints against Ben David Auto Refinishing on Naushon Avenue, he was trying to determine whether the business had valid state and local business licenses. Mr. Dutton said the owner, Ricky Ben David, has since furnished proof of valid state and local licenses.