To the Editor:
Nearby is a letter from a town resident describing issues regarding the “Beach Street sidewalk widening” project, part of the on-going Complete Streets initiative. The letter is accurate, thoughtful and an indication of our town’s lack of fiscal responsibility. Read it!
Let me add another perspective. Over various conversations, emails, and attendance at meetings, I was told that the monies for certain Complete Street projects (bump-outs at some places, an expensive widening of one block of Beach Street, etc.) had been “authorized” over several years. After asking for the specific warrant articles, I concede this seems to be the case.
However, none of these authorizations clearly delineated the major and significant projects intended, but rather simply said “Drainage/Sidewalk Improvements (Article 5, Section 5 and Article 7). These monies last year were raised by taxation and capital exclusions. They are substantial amounts and now, in the case of Beach Street sidewalk widening, $222,874 alone. The Warrant typically enumerates extremely small items such as $15,000 for guardrail replacement and $32,000 for “engineering – Complete Streets grant” but fails to specify planned expenditures which are significant.
As Article 7 consideration began, there was reference to it being “repairs” and that “improved drainage and sidewalks is part of the overall capital improvement plan”. Most voters probably thought these were repairs, not large dollars for intersection reconstruction and modification. Certainly that was my understanding. The rejoinder to my inquiry has been that the town can’t cite every project. I agree. But it should list large projects and those which differ from normal repairs.
The warrant published for the coming meeting continues this practice.
Perhaps it is legal under Commonwealth laws, but it seems to deviate from our customary practice. Town officials continually reference that they strive for “transparency”. This is not transparency.