LETTER: "Mr. Loving should rest assured that his eyesight is not failing him" by Peter Cunningham
Mr. Loving should rest assured that his eyesight is not failing him (see Letters to the Editor, Feb.22 issue) and that there is, indeed, no provision in Groton's Charter that calls for Selectmen to adopt a policy to fund large capital projects within the levy limit and thereby avoid an override or debt exclusion vote.
Section 5-3 of the Charter addresses the financial management of the town and the organizational structure of the Department of Finance. Working in conjunction with the Accountant, Treasurer/Collector, and Principal Assessor the Town Manager serves as the Finance Director.
Much of the policy direction for each fiscal year is laid out in the budget message contained in the budget prepared by the Town Manager and presented to Selectmen and Finance Committee by December 31 as called for in the Charter. The plan to fund the new center fire station within the levy limit has been part of the budget planning process from the very beginning and has been contained in the budget and its projections.
It has also been openly discussed at numerous Selectmen and Finance Committee meetings over the past two years, yet the call by Mr. Loving and others for a vote on the project seemed to arise only after multiple town meetings had approved the project on a number of different warrant articles.
A cynical person might logically conclude that the call for a debt exclusion vote was a last ditch attempt to derail the fire station project, but I would agree it is not productive to speculate as to what the motivating factors may have been. It is clear that there would have been added expenses and delays to moving forward on a project that a thorough and comprehensive assessment process revealed to be necessary to the provision of public safety services to townspeople.
Whatever people may think of our open town meeting form of governance, it is how our town has governed itself for well over 350 years. I find it somewhat peculiar that Mr. Loving seems to have no problem with a 'cigar chomping, no quorum required' annual town meeting approving a $30 million dollar operating budget, yet objects strongly to an $8 million dollar expenditure with yearly debt service of around $500,000 not going to the ballot.
At the end of the day, a town's annual operating budget is a statement of a community's values and priorities for the ensuing year and hopefully would elicit greater participation.
To that end, Selectmen have formed the Town Meeting Review Study Committee to offer recommendations on making it more user-friendly and responsive to changing societal dynamics. I would encourage townspeople to follow the work of this group and to participate in their upcoming survey. Information about the committee is available on the town's website.