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EDITORIAL: CPC’s Post Mortem of $400,000 Loss on Boynton Meadows; Bruce Easom's Suggested Agenda

The Community Preservation Committee is preparing to do a post mortem examination of the $400,000 loss on the Boynton Meadows Development at 134 Main Street, next to the Groton Inn. At 2011 Town Meeting the Community Preservation Committee recommended the expenditure of these funds for the Boynton Meadows Development.
Many of the arguments marshalled to convince voters to support this recommendation did not work out as predicted. All the money was lost and the residents at Boynton Meadows have had to pony up their own funds to complete the project. All the assumptions, all the over-promising and the unfortuante lack of oversight by the CPC needs to be fully and clearly understood and explained.
     In our view it is especially important to air this loss before the Surrenden Farm/General Field debt is paid off. When this debt is repaid in 2020, there will be even more discretionary money for the CPC to recommend for other potentially important, but expensive projects. When such large expenditures come before the town, the voters must have confidence that the CPC is managing their tax dollars responsibly, will hold themselves accountable for mistakes, and does not show favoritism to any group – whether governmental or private.
     We already know that a general tax override will likely be needed in 2021. When and if that override appears on the ballot, there will be an intense search for additional monies. If citizens do not have full confidence in the CPC, this funding could be a target for some of those override funds. All the more reason not to delay.
     In the text below, CPC committee member Bruce Easom outlines a comprehensive approach and agenda for the post mortem evaluation of the Boynton Medaows loss. Mr. Easom prepared this agenda in response to Community Preservation Committee’s chairman Dan Emerson’s request for Mr. Easom’s view on how to approach the look-back. We certainly hope that CPC members will support the comprehensive approach outlined by Bruce Easom below. In our view, a half-hearted effort to explain the loss will not be enough for the CPC to re-establish the full trust of the People.
Suggested Agenda for CPC Post Mortem
     I would request that the following items be addressed by the Affordable Housing Trust at our joint meeting. The goal is to help the members of the Community Preservation Committee and the public and large understand why their expectations of what was supposed to happen were significantly different from what actually did happen.
1. Timeline of events including those events that did (or should have) raised red flags.
2. A copy of the signed agreement between the Affordable Housing Trust (or the Town of Groton) and the developer.
3. Any comments provided by Town Counsel about the agreement before it was signed.
4. Summary of efforts to date (if any) to recover some or all of the Town's $400,000.
5. Future plans (if any) to recover some or all of the Town's $400,000.
6. Copies of any of the developer's financial documents that have been provided to the Town or Affordable Housing Trust including the periodic audits described to voters at the 2011 Spring Annual Town Meeting.
7. An accounting of the number of affordable housing units actually built.
8. An accounting of the number of affordable housing units that the developer would have had to provide as part of the normal subdivision permitting process
9. Thoughts on how they believe the Town was treated by the developer.
10. Paragraphs or parts of the agreement that, in retrospect, turned out to be particularly detrimental to the Town's position.
11. Lessons learned.
12. Procedures or policies in place or being considered to reduce the likelihood that this or something similar happens again.
13. General observations and overall thoughts.
14. Plans in the works or being considered to increase the Town's affordable housing stock.
     I think we should request from The Groton Channel [(978) 448- 3796 and] a DVD or thumb drive of the Town Meeting where proponents of the article made their pitch as this may help the Committee understand the disparity between expectations and performance.
     The project was discussed as Article 15, Proposal A at the 2011 Spring Annual Town Meeting. Minutes of the meeting are contained in the 2011 Annual Town Report starting on Page 94. The minutes are instructive. It would be helpful to project the Town Meeting discussion on the screen during the CPC meeting. My laptop has a DVD drive and a VGA port for that purpose.
Bruce Easom
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