Weston board questions GNAT-TV, clinic budget requests as Town Meeting nears

By Bruce Frauman
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Weston Select Board is asking GNAT-TV and the Mountain Valley Medical Clinic to come before Town Meeting on Tuesday, March 7 to justify their funding requests.

Select Board members Annie Fuji’i, left, and Bruce Downer. Photos by Bruce Frauman.

On Monday, Feb. 27, board member Charles Goodwin asked GNAT videographer Bruce Frauman, who is also the reporter of this article, to explain how GNAT-TV determined its $2,000 request.

The board had reduced the request from $2,000 down to $500 to elicit public discussion. Frauman explained that the request was based on the cost of the time of the videographer and the camera.

Goodwin said that GNAT-TV listed the $2,000 under Other Income and that it represented 10 percent of   GNAT’s income under that line item.  He added that he thought $2,000 was rather high for a town “the size of Weston.” Frauman said that the cost is a constant and not dependent on the size of the town.

Board chair Denis Benson noted that GNAT has “other sources of income. When this got started, you guys showed up voluntarily and then started asking for money.”

He added, “If you had come through the door and said we are eventually going to charge you for this, that might have been one thing. … That is not a good business deal.  … I’ve also been led to believe that GNAT has other sources of income.” Frauman said that a large part of the funding comes from Comcast subscribers.

Frauman agreed to ask GNAT to provide a response to these questions at town meeting.

From left, Select Board member Denis Benson, board administrative assistant Cheryl Barker and board member Charles Goodwin.

The $9,000 request from Mountain Valley Medical Clinic was reduced to zero since it is now owned by Springfield Hospital, a private corporation, Benson told the board. Board member Ann Fuji’i said that Linda Bickford, a spokeswoman of the clinic, will “explain the separation or the difference between the Mountain Valley Health Council …  and their relationship with Springfield Hospital.”

Board members Jim Linville and Fuji’i have prepared an explanation of the board’s decision not to pursue a request for a walkway and diagonal parking between the Post Office and the library on Lawrence Hill Road to allow for safer exit from vehicles for Little School students as well as a pathway along the road to the library.  Linville and Fuji’i have given the explanation to those most involved in the original request, including former board member Shirley Knowlton, and will offer their rationale at Town Meeting, if asked.

In other action, Goodwin said he watched a video of the Feb. 14 meeting to check the meeting’s written minutes regarding money from the Phelan CD being applied to the School House Fund. His conclusion was that the minutes were an accurate description of a confused discussion. After further discussion, Fuji’i suggested inviting Trustee of Public Funds Mimi Neff to a board meeting to help settle questions, but only after one or two Select Board members meet with Neff first.

Goodwin stated that the Phelan CD was a payment in lieu of taxes for Weston land transferred to the U.S. Forest Service plus the proceeds from a timber sale. The interest from the fund went into the General Fund to “help pay for the loss of taxes” on the federal land. The proceeds from the sale of the Certificate of Deposit went to the School House Fund.

Benson asserted that, “It should be out there on its own, with the interest going into the General Fund.” Treasurer Kim Seymour replied that the interest in the School House Fund is still going to the town’s General Fund.

Also, Benson announced that the Windham Regional Commission is holding a hearing at 6:30 p.m. Monday March 6 at the Weston Town Office over the approval of the Town Plan.

Benson also asked the board to approve a letter being sent to the Agency of Transportation to point out that sections of Route 100 north of town are rapidly deteriorating and would require repair of the base of the road for a more long-lasting solution than just repaving. Goodwin will coordinate with Linville, who participated in the first half hour of the meeting by phone, to draft a letter.

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