Sandwich Finance Committee Opposes Senior Center, Library Funding

SANDWICH – The Sandwich Finance Committee recently expressed concerns with the Special Town Meeting article which would spend $20 million on a new senior center and library renovations.

The committee voted 6-1 against the proposal citing the process of linking the items, and a lack of discussion on possible funding sources.

Committee member Bob Guerin said it’s not about the appropriateness or attractiveness of the projects.

“This committee suggested town meeting should be given the opportunity to consider each individually and vote up or down,” Guerin said.

At an October 1 meeting, Guerin asked why that idea had not been discussed by other town officials.

He also wondered why paying for the projects through a debt exclusion was not considered, as it would require two-thirds approval at town meeting and at the ballots.

Sandwich Town Manager Bud Dunham said the Board of Selectmen felt it was important to link the capital projects.

“I think they felt they had equal merit in terms of how long they have waited and the need to try to address the problems,” Dunham said.

Town officials also had a goal of funding the projects through a 2½ percent levy limit.

“It’s not costing people more money and so the thought was that by avoiding the debt exclusion you are not going to be charging people extra for that,” Dunham said.

Dunham has proposed a $20 million bond for the projects, about $16 million for the senior center and 3 million for the library. The bond would be repaid through sources other than taxes, including short-term rental tax funds, the sale of town properties and the annual payment in lieu of taxes from the canal power plant.

The article would only need to pass by two-thirds majority at special town meeting and not need to go to the ballot box.

“This is about process,” Guerin said. “This isn’t about the legitimacy of these requests at all. It’s not. Not from me.”

Guerin said he was disappointed that the article was a “done deal” before it was even presented to the finance committee.

He said it is being sold on the idea that the projects will be completed without raising taxes for residents.

“I would suggest that’s done purposefully to avoid the conversation around what is the alternative,” Guerin said. “And there are always alternatives.”

Guerin said process, financial management and public dialogue should always be considered when proposing these types of capital projects.

“I think this committee should be thinking about sending strong, loud and clear messages about process, around fiscal management and around good communications as fiscal stewards,” he said.

Special Town Meeting is October 28.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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