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“No Budget for You.”

The Peabody Municipal Light Commission elected officers last week and continued their confusing attitude about providing transparency regarding the operation of the city’s power plants.

Newly elected Chairman Ray Melvin announced, “Under my chairmanship, I will always ensure transparency with the public, as my predecessors have done in the past; however, going forward, the board will accept any and all questions pertaining to the light department through e-mail, website, social media or phone.”

Sounds like an improvement – yet, a brief time later in the meeting, Melvin would not allow the board to discuss the light plant’s 2024 budget during the open public meeting.

“I have no further discussion on the budget but, if I could add, we are the elected officials that go through this budget and that’s why we’re elected. This process is really not an open process to the public. However, at some point it will be released.”

Melvin prevented discussion in the open meeting and sent it into executive session, Although BCNS left the meeting when the board went into executive session, we received a copy of the budget two days later. The board voted on it when they returned that night from executive session. We don’t know how commissioners voted or the amount of funding passed,

After the public meeting adjourned, Commissioner Tom Paras (a 20-year member of the Commission) said that the PMLP budget was publicly discussed in the past, but now “it’s all done in-house.”

During the public part of the meeting on Jan. 25, PMLP Manager Joe Anastasi did provide comments on the proposed budget; his remarks begin at 17:43 on the video recording link at (Note: If BCNS did not provide volunteer support to Peabody TV, the meeting would not have been recorded and we would not have access to Anastasi’s comments.)

During the public participation part of the Jan 25 meeting, Peabody resident and Breathe Clean North Shore co-founder, Ron Smoller, also provided comments about the commission’s continued lack of transparency.

“I want to express my disappointment in the PMLP regarding this year’s budget process. Every other City of Peabody council or committee that has a budget has an open and transparent budget process where a proposed budget is released for review and comment ahead of a public vote. Not PMLP. The budget for ‘our’ light plant is created and discussed behind closed doors and even standard requests to see the proposed budget are declined. ‘No budget for you,’ that’s what we hear.”

Smoller continued, “Even though it’s not a requirement at this time to provide a draft budget to interested owners of the PMLP (it is ours, remember) it would certainly be in line with the stated intent of PMLP to be more transparent… We have heard many times over the last year or two about how transparent you want to be, frankly the problem is, your actions have not matched your words, I ask you again to consider this unnecessarily secretive process going forward.”

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