To the Editor:
I am writing to the taxpayers of Mattapoisett to ask that you participate in the Fall Town Meeting to be held on November 19 at ORR High School. This special town meeting is an unusual fall town meeting because of several significant monetary requests, which most of us would expect to be discussed at the annual town meeting in the spring. Some of these items were incorrectly described in last week’s article in The Wanderer by Eric Tripoli as mere “housekeeping” topics. But the truth is that some of these articles are for discretionary expenditures that are designed to benefit small groups of taxpayers and are likely to set the stage for similar requests that I do not think we can afford. Believe me, the people that would benefit at your expense are going to show up at the meeting!
One article is asking for $230,000 from free cash (over 1/3 of total free cash balance) to pave Mattapoisett Neck Road upon completion of the sewer project. In past sewer projects, including the recent projects for the Brandt Island and Point Connett, the total cost of repaving the roads was included in the betterment charged to the users of the new sewer installations. For Mattapoisett Neck, only 50 percent of the cost was included in the betterment charges and now the entire town is being asked to pick up the tab for the rest.
I do not know why taxpayers were not told about this expense when the taxpayers were asked to approve the Mattapoisett Road project. The only answer I have received from the Water and Sewer Department is that only half the road was dug up to install the sewer on Mattapoisett Neck. I have surveyed the entire road and can tell you that in some places the right side of the road was torn up, sometimes the left side, and sometimes trenches were dug to go across the road to connect some users. I do not doubt that it makes sense to pave the entire road at some point. I question whether this project should be allowed to skip ahead of other projects on the road improvement plans which were discussed at the May 2012 town meeting. Should this project go ahead of heavily traveled roads that were torn up to replace dangerously deteriorated gas lines on lower Barstow and Church Streets this past summer? Is Mattapoisett Neck Road in worse condition than Water/Beacon Streets that are in deplorable condition and are among the most heavily traveled roads in town?
Would funding this from general taxpayer funds be fair to those neighborhoods (Point Connett, Brandt Island and others) that are paying the entire cost of repaving their roads through their sewer betterment charges? How can we ask them to subsidize the Mattapoisett Neck project while they are still paying off their hefty betterment charges? Are we going to give them a rebate? The proposed subsidy for the Mattapoisett Neck project is a significant policy change that could have ramifications for future projects, so keep your checkbooks handy. In any event, we can expect the beneficiaries of this change to pack the house. If you care about nearly a quarter of a million dollars coming out of your taxes, you need to show up and vote!
You also need to pay attention to the proposal by the Community Preservation Program to purchase a vacant lot on Chapel Road for $125,000. As reported last week in The Wanderer, the town would purchase this land and then allow the land to be used by a nonprofit, charitable corporation or foundation as decided by the Board of Selectman. In other words, we don’t know what the purpose of the land would be other than that it would “preserve” the woodland view of a small number of homes that face the lot. My understanding is that this lot is a three acre residential lot with significant wetland that could only accommodate one house. Although it theoretically would be available for use by anyone in town, for what is not clear. Given its relatively remote location, small size, and lack of parking and other facilities, it would be hard to say that this could benefit the community at large. To do so would likely require additional funds. The Mattapoisett Land Trust was asked to consider this purchase and rejected it because they did not believe that it could produce a benefit for the community at large.
There are similar lots all over town including those lots that only recently became “buildable” lots due to the installation of town sewer. Would we set a precedent here for other neighborhoods that think the town should purchase land so no one can ruin their privacy and pristine views? Some neighborhoods have addressed this issue by forming neighborhood associations to purchase “common” lands for common use. Is funding this purchase fair from the general taxpayer funds to them?
According to some elected members of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), this proposal was reluctantly supported by the CPC because the neighborhood collected over 300 signatures of town residents to support the request. However, I have also heard that the petition organizers placed considerable pressure on friends and neighbors to sign up. One friend told me that the organizers tried to totally intimidate her to sign. In any event, given that over 300 signed up … they could pack the room at the town meeting. So if you care about this issue, you need to show up!
As a member of the Finance Committee, appointed by the Selectmen, my primary responsibility is to advise the Selectmen on financial matters. However, I also believe that I have a responsibility to watch the back of each and every taxpayer in this town and to make sure that the taxpayers are well-informed. In the end, all I get for my work on the Finance Committee is just the same single vote as you do. So I ask YOU to get informed on the financial issues facing our town and to participate at town meeting … and to hang on to your wallets!