Kirk Franklin, Board Member, LSP Board of Registration

By: Katherine Robertson, Robertson Associates, and the LSPA's media consultant

 
This is the second in a series of articles profiling current members of the LSP Board of Registration. 

Back in 1999, Kirk Franklin was approached by members of several of the environmental organizations with which he was involved.  "There's this LSP thing and we've been requested to nominate a person qualified to serve on the board," they told him. "We don't know anything about it, and you're the closest person we could think of."  Would he mind, they asked, if they put his name forward as a candidate for one of Board's slots designated for a member of a statewide organization that promotes the protection of the environment? 

As it was, Franklin - who is president of New Bedford-based Frank Corp Environmental Services - had more than a passing knowledge of LSPs and the work they did under the Massachusetts privatized cleanup program. "I don't do that type of work," he said. "But being in the site soil cleanup business, I knew a little about LSPs and the program." 

With that in mind, he agreed to have his name put forth and soon found himself trekking around the state as a member of the LSP Board. 

As a new appointee, Franklin found the work load heavier than anticipated. But, he said, all the Board members chipped in and there was camaraderie among the members even when there was disagreement. "I was very fortunate there was a great bunch of a people," he said. "It was okay to argue a point. No one got upset. It wasn't personal." 

"It was a lot of work, but the people were fun." 

As a non-LSP with a background in construction and environmental services, Franklin considers himself as somewhat of an outsider to the Board. But he believes that his outsider's perspective has been a healthy - and appreciated - addition to Board discussions. MassDEP and the LSPs can get caught up in the details, he said, while the environmental members have the ability to look at the big picture. "All the members have the same common agenda, but they come from different places," he said.  "I am on the outside looking in. It's a different perspective, but it's a good perspective because we can get lost in the details." 

Franklin believes that his approach may have taken some getting used to by his colleagues on the Board. "After a while, I think they actually liked that I had some first-hand experience in the field," he said. "While they were looking at it from a regulatory side, I was looking at it from my experience in the field." 

According to Franklin, the responsibilities of being a Board member have changed substantially since he was first appointed. There were so many active Complaint Review Teams (CRTs) at one point - Franklin estimates the number as being between 15 and 20 active cases - that the Board came up with a spreadsheet to help prioritize them in terms of impact on public health and the environment. At the time, members committed 40 to 60 hours a month to Board business, a far cry from the 10 hours a month he estimates he puts in today. 

It is Franklin's opinion that the crush of CRTs during the early years of the program was a result of MassDEP's ending its informal grace period for LSPs, during which it used education rather than enforcement to familiarize LSPs with the relatively new regulations and policies. In recent years, the number of complaints has decreased again, a fact Franklin attributes to greater familiarity with the rules on the part of LSPs, as well as a reduction in both the MassDEP staff who bring the majority of cases to the board and the Board staff who investigate them. 

Other Board business has also been slowed by staff and board changes which have brought with them the loss of institutional memory and a steep learning curve for new appointees and staff alike, said Franklin. "Things have slowed down a little in order to let new staff and new board members catch up," he said. "There are still some complaints; we're preparing to redo the exam; there is always continuing education; and we are trying to hire new staff. " That said, he is still comfortable in his role as a Board outsider, the person other Board members look to for a different perspective and to keep discussions on point and within the Board purview. "I like efficiency," he said. "And I do not want to lose our focus on protecting the environment."