There is an item of great concern in this year's Town Budget that will be voted on this Monday, June 3rd (at the Town Hall). $3,095,000 is buried in the budget as a line item for a "Construction Fund".
The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) majority has said they want to build a Community Recreation Senior Center. There is no plan for the Center. There are no projected operating costs for this facility. There is no information. We do not know what we will get for this $3,095,000 Construction item.
In the past, construction projects in Charlestown have been voted on as separate warrant items after plans have been established, actual construction costs are known, public hearings have been held and additional operating costs are known. In the past, the residents have known what they are voting on. This is not the case with the $3,095,000 "Construction" item. There are no plans at all.
This $3,095,000 is 10% of the total operating budget. The majority of the Town Council wants us to approve this large amount of money without providing any plans whatsoever. This line item is for "Construction". If the budget is approved. The Town Council has total control to build anything they want. If this budget is approved, we the taxpayers lose control over this money. We have a right to know what we are voting on.
This move is also a land grab in Ninigret Park. The location the CCA majority has picked for this Center is designated in the Ninigret Master Plan for use as a festival/concert area, not a community center. FYI- there is already a Community Senior Center in Ninigret Park.
The CCA is hoping that by burying this $3,095,000 as a line item in the budget, it will quietly pass. They boldly skip talking about the unavoidable annual operating costs that would be associated with this. What will become of the existing Community Senior Center? There are no plans!
Amazingly, the CCA has stated at public meetings and editorials in newspapers that this is free money! This is NOT free money. This is our money. This is the taxpayers money!
The CCA majority on the Town Council did not consider any other options for this $3,095,000. The Town could issue a tax refund, which would be approximately $115.00 / $100,000 of assessed valuation. The Town could fund our unfunded Police pension liabilities and / or the OPEB (Other Post Employment benefits). The Town is currently underfunded by approximately $6,500,000. Other ideas have been suggested, but the CCA majority would not consider them. They even ignored over 300 signatures on a petition asking that a professional, objective survey be conducted to determine the recreational needs of our town and also specifically asking the $3,095,000 not be included in the budget because there is no plan.
There has been no citizen input for a Community Recreation Senior Center, yet these CCA endorsed councilors are charging ahead anyway. No professional survey has been done asking what the residents want to see in town. The CCA wants us to approve the money first, then they will decide what we get.
In a brazen move, the Town has published a legal notice requesting professionals to bid on the design of a $3,000,000 new community center in Ninigret Park!(see The Westerly Sun, Sunday May 26, 2019, page D5.) and to present a plan by October 6, 2019, three short months away. So much for this Ad-Hoc committee to discuss what the taxpayers want. The CCA has already decided. Why did this ad go out before the budget was voted on? Is it considered a done deal?
The Town's "Pipeline", paid for by the taxpayers, is misleading when it touts a community center. The actual item is for "Construction". Remember the CCA's $7,000 bike path that turned into a $300,000 money grab from the Ninigret Bond fund? They bypassed the Parks and Rec Commission for this. If this $3,095,000 is approved in the budget, they can construct whatever they'd like.
We the taxpayers of Charlestown have a right to know what we are getting for our $3,095,000. We the taxpayers of Charlestown deserve to have a say in how our $3,095,000 will be spent.
The only way to stop this $3,095,000 unknown is to reject the budget. Vote "NO" on June 3rd.
Vote at the Charlestown Town Hall, Monday, June 3rd 8:00 am - 8:00pm