I would like to respond to the article “Duxbury voters reject proposal to repair town highway garage” in the Nov. 21 issue.
Full disclosure: I did serve on the committee involved with the building of the garage and later on served for eight years on the Duxbury Select Board.
The structural framing used came from a building formerly in Waterbury which was donated to the town. The installation was done with the support of an engineering firm and was done with new sheathing. Unfortunately, the construction documents have not been found in the town office in order to review the recommended design specification or recommended framing.
The scope of the work was discussed in three meetings this year: town meeting in March and select board special meetings on Sept. 10 and Oct. 29. The information provided at the Oct. 29 meeting prior to the bond vote detailed the work as the installation of structural support and bracing and replacement of the roof sheathing estimated at $200,000. Replacement of the sheathing on the rear wall was estimated at $26,000. The proposal also detailed replacing the sheathing on the other three walls, estimate $49,500; miscellaneous electrical work estimate $3,500; and replacement of the four garage doors estimate $18,000. The amount requested for a bond was $300,000.
I take a number of exceptions with the opinions and descriptions offered up by Mr. De LaBruere, the select board assistant. I find no reason or point to engage them at this time. Unfortunately, what he knows full well and fails to discuss is addressed in the last paragraph by board member Mari Pratt: the need to inform the taxpayers of the financial standing of the town.
Prior to the bond vote, I submitted my thoughts to the voters on the Duxbury Front Porch Forum, asking that they vote no. I will briefly review these points and any information provided in the meantime
What is the status of the last fiscal year’s budget? The town treasurer on Sept. 10, 2019, stated he thought it was approximately $90,000. When we met on Oct. 29, the town treasurer estimated it was around $108,000. He told us he thought he would have his portion of the audit work completed in three weeks or so. Has the audit been completed and where do we stand?
At the Sept. 10 meeting, the town treasurer stated that the spending for the current fiscal year appeared to be over budget. When we met on Oct. 29, no one could provide any information on the status of our current spending.
The position of assistant to the select board had been approved as part-time in the budget, with a 20-hour-a-week schedule with hourly reimbursement. At the September meeting, we were informed Mr. De LaBruere is now working 40 hours a week as well as logging overtime. Initially budgeted at $25,000 a year for 20 hours a week, where does this line item stand? What is the justification for an assistant to the select board for 40 hours a week? What accounts for the overtime?
A review of the written minutes of the select board meeting of Nov. 6 details damage to the roads in Duxbury from the storm on Halloween. It appears a private contractor was engaged to make the repairs. The damage assessment in the minutes includes the following; “Mari (Pratt) expressed concern about Bob (Magee) approving the emergency contractor work without the rest of the board’s approval.” The chair of the select board is not empowered to authorize any work or expenditure without the approval of the board. Do we have any idea the scope of this work, and is there any potential for reimbursement? Are there any other unexpected expenditures and what line items have we currently overspent only five months into this fiscal year?
Prior to and subsequent to the bond vote, I have spoken with no one who expressed any support for spending $1.2 million on any town building. We are constantly informed that Duxbury is growing and we need to plan accordingly. The Census in 2000 put the town’s population at 1,289 persons, 2010 at 1,337 persons, the level we are at today. Why would we ever consider committing to such an expenditure, given our historically low and limited growth potential and our ability to pay for it is limited to our static property values? Moreover, we have been committed to a number of grants and FEMA reimbursements for which we have not received a complete accounting.
I recommend the following items be addressed in the next three months:
• The taxpayers must be provided the overdue audit of the past fiscal year with the answer to the size of any deficit incurred.
• The select board must present to the taxpayers a complete spreadsheet of all obligations that the town currently holds, including: any equipment loans; all grants completed; all grants currently having work performed; all grants that the town has signed contracts for going forward; and any other possible or probable capital expenditure discussed that we may confront. This spreadsheet shall specify the amount of the grant with a breakdown of the cost share to the town, provide the amounts of reimbursements that the town is due for work completed, the anticipated status and schedule for any grants/projects that have been committed to.
• A report on where the current budget stands — in December it will be six months — so we can forecast going forward.
• A proactive management of the town’s affairs to curb expenses where possible and still provide for the safe operation of the town.
• Call a halt to any grant applications until we can determine where we stand.
• Provide a prioritized list of projects in Duxbury, making repair of the town garage No. 1.
• Prepare the budget for 2020-21.
The town’s portion of the property tax rate is small compared to the state portion. Discussions of potential spending increases in the school budget have yet to be finalized with no determination of funding for proposed Harwood renovations.
I support repair of the town garage and I believe the voters do. We cannot, however, make this decision until such time as we receive all pertinent information regarding the town’s financial standing.
Richard Charland lives in Duxbury.