To the Editor:
Congratulations to all the Newcastle voters that took the time to make decisions about who they believe would best represent them in the county, state and national governments.
How many of you have also been focusing on our town government? I am sure everyone could name the candidates for Congress, Senate and President – but how many can name our five Selectmen? If you can turn out in large numbers for a presidential year election, why not for local elections, or for town meeting?
Do you know how the town voted at the last two March meetings regarding a new town office facility? In 2006 those in attendance voted “no” on Article 9, to authorize construction of a new building, appropriating up to $50,000 from Capital Reserve and up to $225,000 from borrowing. At the 2007 meeting, we turned down a proposal for a new building at a cost not to exceed $250,000 and approved the warrant article for up to $198,000 to construct a 15 by 40 foot addition to the Taniscot Building to accommodate a new town office.
Do you know that the Selectmen had to expend funds for a second set of plans, partly to comply with state law requiring a registered architect for municipal buildings? Do you know that the bids for the construction all came in over the allotted amount, and that it was quickly given back for revised bids based on removal of some of the planned items?
But, even the revised bids, plus all the professional fees, amounted to considerably more than the amount we authorized. The Selectmen solved this problem by getting a legal opinion that they could expend capital reserve funds for this or any other purpose. Sounds like a page out of the Bush Administration handbook.
Yes, legally our town fathers (and mothers) may have the right to spend our Capital Reserve money, but morally, after all that preceded it, they should have come back to us at a special town meeting. Now it is a done deal, the contractor has begun the work.
If our vote at the annual town meeting is not going to be followed, then why bother to vote? We are fortunate to live in a state where town government is not run by politicians beholden to political parties, but by elected representatives who are required to put expenditures of town funds to a vote. We pay the taxes and we are supposed to decide how they are to be spent.
Next March we need to let the Selectmen know that we do not approve of them making major expenditures of our money without our approval. Of course, it will be too late to change what has been done. I still believe we should have approved the 2006 article, because we would have a new building suitable for the next 50 years, it would have been very economical to operate, and it wouldn’t have made any difference in our tax rate. The structure we are getting now will probably be outgrown within 10 years or less. There will be parking and traffic problems, especially if more citizens decide to attend Select Board meetings to observe them in action!
David Bailey, Newcastle