Standing Idle

By S.D. Plissken | August 23, 2019

Long ago I was given a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s other book, the Silmarillion. No movie has been made to date – you would have to read it. Early in the story, a Hephaestus-like demi-god Aüle anticipated his creator’s intentions and made his own creatures, the dwarves, without authority. He was rebuked by his creator for having done so.

For thou hast from me as a gift thy own being only, and no more; and therefore the creatures of thy hand and mind can live only by that being, moving when thou thinkest to move them, and if thy thought be elsewhere, standing idle. Is that thy desire?

Last Monday’s meeting of the Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) had an almost mythological moment in the “Other Items That May Come Before the Board” portion of the meeting.

Before they vanished last July into a month-long series of workshop meetings, the BOS gave “guidance” to the Town department heads to prepare their budgets based upon salary increases of 2% for merit and 1.7% in Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) [!!!].

And then the BOS’ thoughts turned elsewhere. And it would seem that their creatures, the Town department heads, lacking their own volition, then stood idle in the matter of their annual CIP Plan submissions. Sound a bit familiar?

Chairman Thibeault: Another item that has come up is a request from the Planning board for an extension on the CIP process, and I’ll ask Bruce to speak to this.

Town Planner Bruce Woodruff: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I’m Bruce Woodruff, Town Planner. The Planning Board has requested extra time to present their annual Capital Improvement Program report to you. As you know, the policy document that you approved does state that the report has to come to you in that first week in September. What I wanted to tell you is that the … all of the submission documents from all the various people that propose Capital Improvement projects didn’t get to the Planning Board until just before August 6th of this year, and they were all supposed to be in by … the middle of June.

Selectman Rawson: Hmm.

Town Planner Woodruff: Now, we are catching up a little bit. And, as I said, we were supposed to begin to review all of those compiled project submissions starting on July 2nd. We didn’t get all of these until August 6th, so there’s about a month and four days that we’re behind at this point. And so, really, what the Planning Board is asking is this: they’re asking to change this deadline date for submission from September 5th to October 16th, which coincides with the day after their required Public Hearing on the Capital Improvement Program.

Selectman Rawson: I’m fine with that.

Chairman Thibeault: I’m fine with that. I make a motion to grant the Planning Board an extension for the CIP submission of October 16th.

Selectman Rawson: I’ll second that.

Chairman Thibeault: All in favor?

Entire BOS: Aye.

Chairman Thibeault: Alright. Next up is approval of minutes.

Returning to the BOS “guidance” for 2% merit increases. Would you say these Town department heads turned in a particularly meritorious performance in that matter of their CIP submission deadlines?

And the Town Planner? He appears by his own statement to have pretty much spent a month and four days just tapping his foot, waiting for the Town departmental submissions. Or perhaps he is simply too polite to mention publicly his constant dunning of Town department heads during that period. Or perhaps he warned the BOS in a timely manner that its creatures were standing idle past their deadline?

As we have just seen, none of that constitutes a Town problem. We’ll just put off the deadline. The BOS is unanimously “fine with that.” Think no more about it.

They would feel just the same if you missed your tax payment by a month and four days. Right?

Right, they would have no problem with your being late either. No interest penalties. Because missing a deadline would be the same for you, as it might be for any other creature, say, even a Town department head. You might deserve a merit increase too. Well, in context, for you it would have to be a merit tax cut.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. – Douglas Adams


Tolkien, John R.R. (1977). The Silmarillion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001

Town of Milton. (2019, August 19). BOS Meeting, August 19, 2019. Retrieved from

Wikpedia. (2019, August 8). Hephaestus. Retrieved from


Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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