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UCTC completes revised charge draft as some members decry animosity toward committee

by | May 16, 2024 | Featured: News, News

The Upper Charles Trail Committee at its meeting Wednesday night completed its final draft revisions to its charge. But discussions unearthed tensions as to why the UCTC was compelled to complete this process in the first place.

Members will review the final draft and present any modifications to chair Jane Moran before the committee’s next meeting. Moran will complete a summary of the discussions to include in a packet to submit to the Select Board.

The  Select Board last year requested that the UCTC modify its committee structure and charge after a nonbinding Town Meeting article, Article 47, called for disbandment of the current UCTC and restructuring the committee.

Major revisions made to committee structure

One major change is that there no longer will be alternate members or a Select Board liaison.

Members agreed that all members should be allowed to participate and vote. The current alternate members are Tim Ritterbusch and Jamie Wronka, who is running unopposed for a School Committee seat.

Said Moran: “I think we’re all in agreement that there should be seven members and no alternates.”

The committee also decided to report to the Select Board at least twice a year after quarterly updates initially were proposed by member Scott Knous. Members argued that there is a no need for a Select Board liaison, as recent years showed that the liaison rarely attended meetings.

Outgoing Select Board member Irfan Nasrullah, the current liaison, rarely appeared at meetings. He was the author of one of the proposed charge revisions submitted to the UCTC as well as a member of the Select Board subcommittee that created a community survey on the UCTC’s mission.

“The Select Board should not have a position on this board,” stressed vice chair Eric Sonnett. “What we have now is Irfan as a voting member. And their member has never showed up at a meeting with any consistency.”

Moran noted that a previous unnamed Select Board liaison years ago was very involved. But he decided it was not appropriate for him to vote on issues that would eventually come before the Select Board.

Added Moran: “He felt like the committee needed to do its own work without interference from the Select Board.”

She noted that the Select Board will be appointing the members of the reconstituted UCTC.

“Our job here will be done here as we know it,” said Moran. “At least that’s the message I got from the Select Board at several meetings.”

There still will be a liaison from the Conservation Commission, but not from the Parks & Recreation Commission. Parks & Rec has not had a liaison for more than a year. The Conservation Commission does not currently have a liaison, but Jim Ciriello is a member of both bodies. The Trails Committee now will have a liaison, and the UCTC will have a liaison on that committee.

Knous questioned if a liaison had to be a member of that committee. After discussion, members decided that a person did not, but would have to approach that body to seek recommendation for appointment to the UCTC.

“We want to create as many open paths as we can for membership,” Knous said.

Wronka pointed out that the current roster on the town website does not list two current members.

“I don’t care what the roster says,” asserted Sonnett. “The law says you are a member until they replace you with someone.”

He added: “Most boards don’t have a clue what we’re doing.”

Length of officer terms sparks debate

Moran brought up the issue of officer terms. One draft proposal stated that leaders should serve no more than two consecutive terms and not serve for two years after concluding that role.

This proposal was rejected by Sonnett. He said many town boards have had the same chairs for years. Knous, Ritterbusch and Wronka advocated for rotating chairs to encourage new energy. Ciriello agreed with Sonnett, noting the demands of a chairmanship.

This discussion provoked old resentment about how the decision to restructure the UCTC arose.

“There is no other committee that was attacked like we were attacked,” charged Ciriello.

“No other committee was attacked on a personal aspect the way we were,” added Moran. “Obviously people have a problem with its leadership, It a personal affront.”

“The reason that we’re different is that we’re being disbanded,” said member Ken Parker. “Take that into account.”

“I challenge anybody in this town to present some real factual evidence that this committee has been dysfunctional,” said Ciriello. “It’s a fact that a bunch of people followed one person at Town Meeting that said it’s dysfunctional.”

The person to whom Ciriello referred is Trails Committee chair Peter LaGoy. LaGoy drafted Article 47 as a private citizen.

After some heated discussion, the majority of members voted for the leadership terms to stay as is with no term limits.

Other decisions made

The committee decided that one UCTC member should have marketing and communications experience, while another should have information technology expertise.

The group also voted 6-0 to present “two or three options” for the design of the Upper Charles Trail.

“I think that it’s important to remember that we just present these options to the Select Board,” said Moran. “The Select Board will ultimately make the decision.”

3 Comments

  1. Linda Chuss

    Here are some facts about this statement in the article: “It’s a fact that a bunch of people followed one person at Town Meeting that said it’s dysfunctional.” At Town Meeting in May 2023, the vote to disband the current Upper Charles Trail Committee was Yes-158, No-61. It’s not that easy to get a citizen’s petition on the ballot, let alone get enough people to learn enough about a topic and stay until late in the second night to vote on it, and for an unusual request. The petition was based on a list of factual issues about the dysfunction (not operating normally or properly) that were moving far along the path of an expensive and unwanted trail route.

    The petition came about because residents felt the issues were being ignored by the UCTC and the Select Board, so a large group of residents took the serious measure to put it up to a Town Meeting vote. Given the above statement from the UCTC and the delayed pace of action from the Select Board, it’s not clear even that message from that May 2023 vote has been taken seriously.

    One positive result from the vote is that progress on the unwanted and expensive trail route was stopped by the Select Board, though some UCTC members have stated they still support it as the ‘only viable option’, contrary to the views of other trails groups in town. Now it’s time to reconstitute an Upper Charles Trail group that will make progress on a better set of options and with more functional methods of operating. As someone who supported the petition that passed over a year ago now, I’m sincerely hoping the Select Board will take appropriate action soon.

    Reply
  2. Amy Groves

    The committee’s charge document used to specify that one of the options should run along Hayden Rowe. The new charge document should specify that none of the options should run along Hayden Rowe, at least not for more than a few yards. Otherwise I fear we will end up right back where we started, with members expressing anger and continuing to spend money on the Hayden Rowe option.

    Reply
  3. Jim Ciriello

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Amy. Upon hearing significant opposition to the potential segment along HR Street, the UCTC immediately refocused it’s efforts to work on other potential segments of an UCT. The opposition was heard loud and clear and the committee announced that it ceased pursuing a HR Street option long before the non-binding town meeting vote to disband the committee.

    Reply

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