Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sign language

Just found this picture of Andy Upham using sign language to tell fellow councilor John Welch what to do with his opinions:

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Feel the love

I just spoke to John Welch about an exchange that took place between him and fellow councilor Andy Upham after a recent council workshop. The meeting had included discussions of the town budget and the role of Mitch Berkowitz, two subjects on which Welch and Upham disagree.

According to Welch, he was about to head down the ramp at Stimson Hall following adjournment when he was unexpectedly confronted by a visibly angry and agitated Upham, who got within 8 inches of Welch's face and began yelling at him without pause. Among other things, Upham called Welch a "turd-stirrer", "chicken" and accused him of "running away from things". Welch responded by telling Upham "You don't know what the facts are" and "You're a bully."

Accompanying Upham were council chairman Gary Foster and Monument editor Elizabeth Prata. Foster reportedly said nothing during Upham's outburst, while Prata told Welch "You should be ashamed". Upham's final words to John were "Don't bother coming to any more council meetings. Stay away." The incident apparently ended there.

At an earlier council meeting, Welch also remembers Upham telling him that "if you don't stop asking questions you're really going to piss me off."

Finally, Welch described an exchange between him and Upham that occurred at the dump this past weekened. As Welch was helping with Earth Day recycling efforts, Upham (who was at the facility campaigning against recall) approached him and said "I'm glad to see you've found something you can handle." John reponded by wishing Andy a good morning.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Workshop wrap-up

A couple of points about last night's council workshop:

The team from Port City Architecture made a straightforward presentation about the proposed library basement renovation. Their discussion of the various fire, building and accessibility codes that would affect this project was especially interesting. The PCA team included two licensed architects with extensive library experience and a pair of representatives from PCA partner Allied Construction (HVAC contractor AWM Engineering also contributed to the report). It was a highly skilled, experienced group of construction professionals present at Stimson Hall last night - the perfect opportunity for the Gray Town Council to get some answers to a wide range of important technical questions before undertaking something as significant and expensive as a major expansion of the Gray Public Library.

After the presentation, the four Gray Town Councilors who were present asked the PCA team a total of two questions. John Welch asked about elevators. Andy Upham asked the PCA team if they had measured the building. A couple of other questions were asked during the presentation.

That was it.

Actually, there was a bit more. With his characteristic penchant for avoiding responsibility, Upham waited until the PCA team was long gone before returning to the library issue - to assign blame. After conceding that PCA was probably correct in noting the various code requirements overlooked in his now-discredited $200,000 renovation budget, Andy implied that his oversights were all the fault of Gray CEO Paul White, who had earlier pointed out some code deficiencies in Upham's original renovation proposal but not all those contained in the PCA report.

It should be noted that White spoke extensively with PCA on code and compliance issues relating to this project prior to issuance of their report. It should also be noted that code oversights are only part of the reason Upham's budget isn't worth the paper its written on. The self-declared construction management expert also drastically underpriced virtually every line item in his homemade budget, and somehow forgot to include entire standard expense categories.

Andy Upham. A man without conscience, shame, or competence.

Elsewhere, Foster and Upham mentioned an upcoming executive session whose purpose they were unwilling to share with the public or with fellow councilor John Welch. Only under Welch's repeated questioning did Upham indicate that the session concerned town attorney Bill Dale's (and his firm's) job performance. It looks like yet another competent professional who has done years of impeccable work for this town is about to get attacked and possibly purged by this crew of bumbling, abusive incompetents. Sorry, Bill. That'll teach you to work on your day off.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Upham violates election law

Councilor Andrew Upham violated state election law today.

The violation occurred when Upham and his supporters brought anti-recall campaign signs to Gray Town Hall as part of a staged backdrop for a television interview Upham was doing with WGME Channel 13 News. Because town hall is currently a designated absentee voting site for the May 2 recall election, it is illegal to have campaign material within 250 feet of it. The television interview took place outside, between town hall and Stimson Hall. The group of five sign-carrying Upham supporters, which included councilor Skip Crane, had placed additional anti-recall signs at Stimson. All of the signs were inside the 250’ campaign advertising-free zone mandated by state law.

State Election Law Title 21- A , Chapter 9, Subchapter 2, Article 4, §682 Political Activities Part 3 states in part:
3. Advertising prohibited. A person may not display advertising material; operate an advertising medium, including a sound amplification device; or distribute campaign literature, posters, palm cards, buttons, badges or stickers containing a candidate's name or otherwise intending to influence the opinion of any voter within 250 feet of the entrance to either the voting place or the registrar's office.
A knowing violation of this statute is considered a Class E crime.

Upham’s violation was first noted by a citizen who was at town hall on business. It was reported to staff, who immediately notified Registrar and acting town manager Donna Hill. She in turn notified chairman Gary Foster, who arrived shortly afterwards and informed Upham and Crane of the problem. The signs were removed and Upham later apologized to the town hall employees who were present. In addition, Elizabeth Prata, who had accompanied the Upham entourage and was present throughout the interview, sent the following email to town hall shortly afterward:
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2006 2:39 PM
To: Elizabeth Bullen
Subject: Thank you for the reminder

Hello Elizabeth, Diana, and Donna,

Councilor Crane reminded me that people may not hold political signs within 200 feet of a polling place. While I remembered that, and also that Newbegin is a polling place, I had forgotten with the absentee poll at Town Office now erected that it has turned into a polling place as well. Thank you for the reminder,

Its unclear if Prata was speaking on behalf of the Upham campaign or why she felt compelled to send this note.

In a related development, pro-recall spokesman Don Crandall was also interviewed by Channel 13 News today. No violations of campaign law were reported.

Library dollars and sense

The first item on tonight’s council workshop agenda is the long-awaited discussion of Port City Architecture’s analysis of the proposed library basement renovation.

The PCA analysis, commissioned by the Gray Public Library Association last February, takes a thorough look at the cost and implications of renovating the library basement as a short-term solution to the facility’s pressing need for more space.

The basement renovation plan was put forth by Andy Upham in the aftermath of last year’s Pennell/GPLA debacle. Based on information he obtained from a 1999 edition of the R.S. Means Construction Cost Data guide, Upham determined that the basement could be transformed into what he called “white space” – an empty room with an elevator, updated mechanical infrastructure, and finished floors and ceiling ready for further customization – for the sum of $160,000. He later amended that amount to $200,000 after Gray CEO Paul White pointed out stairway, elevator, and other code deficiencies in his original proposal. Upham’s initial budget is on the sidebar at right. CEO White appears to be the only construction professional consulted by Upham in the course of developing his budget.

The Port City Architecture report, prepared in conjunction with Allied Construction and AWM Engineering, establishes a conceptual budget of $513,000. Like Upham’s budget, this amount is also limited to creating a basic space suitable for further customization -- in other words, a bare-bones budget.

The huge difference between Upham’s proposal and the PCA report is the result of PCA's identification of standard construction cost categories that Upham did not include, such as construction management, insurance, parking, design, and contingencies; more realistic budget numbers; and mandatory code requirements that the basement renovation will trigger, such as a building-wide sprinkler system and ventilation improvements. PCA puts code compliance costs alone at over $155,000.

Upham’s failure to note such required expenses in his renovation budget indicates a profound misunderstanding of the complexities of commercial construction. Advocating a massive commitment of taxpayer capital based on such a demonstrably amateurish, incomplete proposal can only be described as reckless.

Will Andy acknowledge reality or shoot the messenger tonight? Should be interesting.