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Can’t you see how you come across as untransparent?

The March 28 meeting of the Peabody Municipal Light Plant had a different feel than usual. The time period for public comment was extended and the issue of lack of transparency was discussed – a first! This is an attempted transcription from the Peabody TV video stream.:

– BCNS/Sudi Smoller – I agree with Commissioner Lazares. We are only trying to get more information. Can’t you see how you come across as being untransparent? Because, when we ask you things, you don’t tell us. And, that has long been the history of our relationship….I’m thrilled that we are involved in the battery project. I feel like you haven’t told anyone about it. The fact that it is one out of 14 communities.…Where exactly is it going? How will it impact Peabody? We haven’t heard any of that. And people want to hear that. And, when you say, send me an email and I’ll email you back, people don’t hear that.

– Commissioner Thomas D’Amato – At the risk of extending this, I get your point. This a cultural change….

-Audience Member – We can’t hear you. Use your microphone.

(D’Amato turns on his microphone and the sound in the room improves, but not on video, because the mics are not connected to the mixer.)

– D’Amato – It’s become a cultural thing. I used to remark that we liked to fly under the radar, great service…(inaudible)… You want us to be more public or higher profile. I don’t know if that can happen overnight. We have a new board; we have more tolerant board members. I understand but we’re not in the business of (inaudible) taking it public. We’re in the business of …(inaudible) service… and in due time, you’ll hear all that. But questions around an empty lot and wanting to know what that is, I don’t know what to say to that.

(referring to a question raised by Stewart Lazares earlier in the meeting.)

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – We want to make sure that you are taking action towards a sustainable future that does not involve greenhouse gasses.

– D’Amato – Yea that’s part of it. That’s not our complete mantra. What’s going on today… is not going to happen overnight….

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – It has to be part of all of our mantras.

– D’Amato – It’s part of our mantra… The federal government is writing checks it can’t cash. It’s part of our mantra. We can’t write checks that we can’t cash. I get it, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – We have to keep chipping away at it…I think you have the best rates and great service. But, I think your mission statement has to be expanded. In today’s world, it has to be more than that. You have to give leadership to the future on

sustainability…(inaudible)….People are feeling like you’re not telling us the good or the bad.

– D’Amato – I think we’re doing as good as anybody. Do you think we’re not doing a good job?

– Commissioner Tracy Valletti – To Sudi’s point about emailing and people not hearing it because it is internal, can we treat that as correspondence and address it publicly?

-Joe Anastasi, PMLP Director – We can do a number of things but that is one of the reasons why we created and transitioned to the Energy Awareness Forum online – for that exact purpose to contain a list of questions and answers that the public has asked.

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – The deadline (on the PMLP website) still says January 21.

– Anastasi – So, it’s out of date. You can still submit a question.

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – And then, when will we see the answer? And then, once you publish it after 60 days, where does that answer go?

– Anastasi – Right there on the energy awareness age.

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – Well, I can’t seem to find much information on that page. (BCNS checked the page on 3/30 and found the deadline has been updated to: If you ask a question and wish to follow up, please use our Contact Page or call Community Relations at 978-531-5975.

– Anastasi – It’s only because there’s only been two questions asked in two-and-a half ears.

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – It’s a bit disheartening when we have to make a deadline and the latest deadline is last January for several months.

– Audience Member – If you don’t answer our questions, then we are really in trouble.

– Anastasi – In my opinion, actions speak louder than words. And, we have made every action in the right direction. If our words are not up to date then we apologize and we’ll be better at that. But, our actions have been unanimously fantastic for the last 50 years and no one is going to make us feel that we haven’t done enough because we’ve done more than almost everyone. We are ahead of the curve.

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – And I’ve said you have, but for the one part: lack of public and community engagement. It’s about the future.

– Anastasi – I am very sorry that you feel that way but I disagree that we are not doing enough. I believe we are. I will always try to be better and that’s something that I take on every day of my life. So, we will be better but I don’t accept that we’re not good enough.

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – The question that immediately comes to mind: Why are there three pages of public notices in the Weekly News this week from this board and you don’t say one word about it before this meeting or at this meeting. What any of that means,

people don’t understand. (Go to pages 12-14.

– Anastasi – Because a lot goes into those decisions and we barely got it out in time. You’ll find out more information is going to be available tomorrow.

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – That’s like saying to me ‘you can see the budget once we pass it.’

– Anastasi – The newspaper article today is about Monday. So it’s not live until Monday.

– D’Amato – Can I add one thing because you have a feeling like we’re not forthcoming or whatnot – not public enough. I have a feeling sometimes like you are looking to trip us up. That we’re under the microscope, that you.. say nice things but it comes across….I can feel that we’re under the microscope with you guys within the last year and a half.

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller = Can I be frank. That’s because…

– Commissioner ? – asks “of 2015A?” (the new 60MW peaker)

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – Because, you don’t share anything with us. You turn off the microphones. The way you treat us and treat public engagement is not very welcoming. So, we’re constantly feeling – we better get there early to make sure the microphones are not

missing again. We better get there early, so we can record this and then people don’t use their microphones so we can’t hear it. It seems no matter what we do, you all are trying to nix it. I’d like to get past that too but that’s been our history since we first found out about the Peabody Peaker. That’s been the history of our interactions. You still have not released your budget. You are publicly elected and you don’t let us see it or talk about it until it’s

been passed?

You ask why we seem to be resisting you? Because other boards don’t do that. They publish their budget. They have a way of communicating. They publish minutes in their entirety, not just a tweaking of the agenda. They record their meetings not necessarily on video but on audio.

– D’Amato – What if everything is the way you wanted and our rates were terrible and our service was terrible? Would that be good?

– BCNS, Sudi Smoller – I’d be here working to address that.

– BCNS: Ron Smoller – Regarding the forum, I truly believe that you are not aware…I’ve sent questions well ahead of what’s shown as the Jan 21 deadline. It’s March 28, there has not been a question posted, including questions that I did send you last September. There should have been a posting in December, it’s a quarterly forum. There should have been answers to questions in December, maybe there weren’t any, mine was before December but it was shortly after. There should been another one (posting) this month, March 21 would be the (traditional) deadline date. It should have been a posting of my questions I submitted before Jan 21. There’s nothing there.

– Anastasi – Every question that has been submitted through the forum is posted on the forum. If you send a question in another fashion it doesn’t …

– BCNS, Ron Smoller – I submitted through the forum, two questions, prior to Jan 21 and they’re still not there. That’s over 60 days. (The two questions, as of 3/30, were not on the update on the Energy Awareness Forum page.)

– Anastasi – I remember seeing them there.

– Audience member – Maybe they are gone now.

– Anastasi – Potentially, that is when we cut over to our new website, maybe.

– BCNS, Ron Smoller – They were meant to be on the Forum…

.Everything I have ever submitted to you ….. I have always followed your rules. I’m always trying to follow all of your rules. I don’t think they’re all great but I get it.

Peabody TV – 8:03 is where BCNS “remarks” begin. Stewart Lazares spoke just prior to 8:03.