Chatham Officials Call Special Town Meeting to Decide VFW Funding


CHATHAM – Selectmen have called for special town meeting in May to support local veterans and the town’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

The May 14 meeting will add a second night onto the original annual town meeting, and will be dedicated to considering whether the Town of Chatham should be authorized to acquire an interest in the Brown-James Buck VFW Post property to allow for funds to be appropriated to repair and maintain the building.

The VFW had previously applied for a $200,000 in historic preservation funds from the Community Preservation Act for renovations.

The VFW was denied, however, because it was deemed not to be a historic building or landmark.

“The genesis of this is that the Board of Selectman has been concerned that the VFW, which has been seeking Community Preservation Funds for certain remedial work at the post, and that process was unsuccessful, decided that we should take a look at some opportunity for the town, perhaps, to provide the funding that was necessary through the general funds of the town as opposed to the Community Preservation Funds,” said Selectmen Chairman Dean Nicastro.

Selectmen unanimously voted on Tuesday to endorse the $200,000 VFW article on the special town meeting warrant and then to close the warrant. If passed, the appropriated funds would be incorporated into the 2020 fiscal budget.

“So, we met in executive session earlier tonight with representatives of the Post to discuss the possibility of the town acquiring a real estate interest in the property, and there is some interest on the part of the VFW to pursue discussions with the town,” said Nicastro during that Tuesday meeting.

However, according to a town law adopted in 1855, the Anti-Aid Amendment to the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, prevents public funds to be spent on nonprofit organizations that the town does not control or own. The law was initially enacted to prevent public spending on Catholic institutions, as Roman Catholics were viewed by some as anti-democratic due to loyalty to Rome.

Nicastro says the town would essentially be purchasing the property and immediately leasing it back to the VFW.

The matter is up for vote on May 14 at the second night of the annual town meeting.

By TIM DUNN, News Center 

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