Open discussion thread: Ask questions, share opinions

by beth on February 24, 2017

Post image for Open discussion thread: Ask questions, share opinions

It’s another beautiful day, and the last weekday of February Break. I’m making the most of it and signing off early for a long weekend.

That means, it’s time for another open thread. What’s on your mind this week, Southborough?

For those of you new to the blog, the open discussion thread is your place to ask questions, sound off on town issues, or share information with other readers. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Ask questions about programs in town or the town itself
  • Post a note about things that you’re selling or giving away, or things that you want
  • Share notices about upcoming events (Southborough or otherwise)
  • Register your thoughts on town issues or news stories
  • Point out interesting or helpful resources

You can add comments to the thread throughout the week. Check back often to see new comments. (If you read the blog via email or RSS, you might want to check the site from time to time for new comments.)

To view past open discussion threads, click here.

(photo by Susan Fitzgerald)

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 louise barron February 24, 2017 at 10:00 PM

Alternatives have not been offered to the residents re: police and fire stations. Take eminent domain of the St. Marks property next to the fire station. The town has been overly generous to St. Marks, and BOS. just walked away from this acre of land belonging to St. Marks. I wouldn’t swap anything with St. Marks. We are not uninformed, we don’t agree and the design of the proposed building is overly aggressive for this town. Perhaps renovating is a better way.

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2 Townie February 26, 2017 at 11:03 AM
3 louise barron February 24, 2017 at 10:04 PM

If in the end, the town doesn’t agree to buy the golf course, we will go back to the drawing boards, and we will come up with another plan for the fire and police buildings. Perhaps even better.

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4 CindyR February 24, 2017 at 11:02 PM

Would love a comment from the DPW regarding the mess their sidewalk snowplow made on East Main and Boston Road. Greasy slippery mess from what appears to be a major oil leak.

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5 louise barron February 24, 2017 at 11:11 PM

36,000 sq ft. combined for police and fire in Southborough. I too have checked other cities and towns for their sq. footage of public safety buildings. No town with our population comes even close to this size. Please folks we need the boards to sharpen their pencils.

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6 Concerned Resident February 25, 2017 at 2:05 PM

The Public Safety Study Committee has posted in many places the different options for alternative locations and solutions for the police and fire stations. You can find them here http://www.southboroughtown.com/sites/southboroughma/files/pages/ps_building_site_options.pdf

The long and short of it is that other options are either more expensive or don’t fit the needs of our police and fire. I appreciate doing research, but every town is different and has different needs. It is extremely difficult to compare town public safety needs and make it apples to apples. We have three major roads that come through Southborough with the Mass Pike, Rte 85, and Rte 9. These roads make the call volume increase and most may not have any reflection on our population as a town. Additionally, lots of towns nearby that have smaller fire stations actually have more than one.

This building is more than appropriate. The town tried to fix this problem ten years ago. When are we going to get out of our own way and finally get this done????

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7 Mike Fuce February 26, 2017 at 11:21 AM

Great idea Louise I never thought of the eminent domain , these highfalutin so called privateschools schools (501c3) never pay their fair share. Take it , also the square footage for our town is too high. And why do all the Democrats in town , town workers have signs out front of their house is supporting the new “Public Safety complex”? What does that tell you? more government power.

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8 Student February 27, 2017 at 9:42 PM

Hi Mike,

I would like a clarification as to what you mean when you say that 501(c) organizations “never pay their fair share”.

Secondly, I find it troubling that you turned the issue of a public safety complex in town into a partisan issue when you mentioned that the Democrats in town support the complex. This is a local issue with little basis in party affiliation or ideology, and it is rather divisive to say it was.

Lastly, why do you say “more government power”? What are you referencing? In what sense will they have more power? What exactly are you worried about?

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9 Frank Crowell February 28, 2017 at 4:02 PM

Student,

Let me help you with your last few questions. When taxes go up my freedom/power to live as I like is taken away. Really just that simple. Many will be able to absorb a property tax increase but a few who live in town who live modestly or are retired might have a difficult time. That additional $250 to $500 owed might be taken out of the food or energy budget for the year. They might decide that this is the final straw. So now time is taken away from them in order to move.

Are you a St Mark’s or Fay school student? If so, thank the local taxpayer for subsidizing your education. They very much deserve it.

If you are a public school student, thank your parents and your neighbors for the fine education you have received. They also deserve it since it is well overpriced.

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10 southville February 28, 2017 at 3:23 PM

It seems a bit odd to complain about more government power in the same post that you’re advocating for use of eminent domain.

That being said, eminent domain is a very difficult tool to use, and would almost certainly fail here. We have plenty of other options (whether they are perfect or not is up to debate) but they are certainly good enough to block us from use of eminent domain. And it’s worth noting that we’re still required to pay for the land if we took it, so it’s not guaranteed to save us any money, and would likely lose a lot as the legal expenses involved would be large. Not to mention that any positive relationship between St. Marks and the town would likely be ruined for years to come.

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11 louise barron February 26, 2017 at 3:44 PM

We’ll get this done, when appropriate plans are presented with more than one option being voted on. This isn’t democracy. This is a dictatorship. Vote our way or else.

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12 louise barron February 26, 2017 at 3:56 PM

Mike. I smell a developer rat somewhere. For all the benefits the schools have gained in this town to refuse (as we’ve been told), the land we need for the existing fire station is reprehensible This building plan currently being presented is outrageous. Overreaching, .over priced, overly aggressive, and we can’t afford it. Time for new plans. I say PLANS.

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13 D. McGee February 27, 2017 at 3:10 PM

While I understand your point on benefits St. Marks may have received from the town, you’re oversimplifying their position. The St. Marks’ Board of Trustees has a fiduciary duty to get the best deal for the land, and failure to do so exposes them to charges of misappropriation of funds by the Attorney General. Having served on Boards of independent schools, I can tell you this is something the Board takes very seriously. Suggesting it’s “reprehensible” that the school doesn’t just take a lesser deal as a gesture of goodwill to the Town ignores the Board’s very real fiduciary duty.

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14 Elaine February 27, 2017 at 10:14 PM

I read that it was terrible to think that Southborough has never had a new police station-Is anyone aware that the Town of Framingham,biggest town in the USA has never had a new police station either-their present station is an old armory that was renovated! It is situated on Union Avenue-

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15 Mr. D February 26, 2017 at 5:19 PM

If you are not interested in the land swap, are you willing to foot the bill for the land when we need to match the highest offer?

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16 Trixie February 27, 2017 at 7:05 AM

There is a public information session Monday (tonight) at 7 PM at the Woodward School cafeteria at 7PM on the public safety complex.

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17 Jacob Qua February 27, 2017 at 6:54 PM

Beth — any idea what is going on at the Sudbury Reservoir on Parkerville Road? There are lots of police cars/fire trucks/etc. flashing their lights. They have been there about 30 minutes.

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18 beth February 27, 2017 at 7:40 PM

Their Facebook page posted tonight:
“The department is holding a cold water drill on Parkerville Rd North on the causeway. If you activity there that is why.”

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19 Jacob Qua February 27, 2017 at 8:01 PM

I just saw that! Thanks so much!

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20 Carl Guyer February 28, 2017 at 9:09 AM

Southborough is now considering a substantial capital investment in a new safety facility. What it will cost to build and pay for this new facility is a valid concern for the residents of the town. With this new prospect on the table, it might be good time to step back and try thinking outside the box we traditionally define as our available options for paying for this and other needs our community may require.

Traditionally Southborough looks to two basic means for raising revenue for large projects such as the proposed safety facility. The first is a straightforward and simple increase in the tax rate. The second is the expansion of the commercial tax base with the expectation this strategy will reduce the tax rate for residential taxpayers. The first certainly works while the latter has not. Data from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue clearly shows an increasingly dense commercial tax base results higher tax rates in this state.

What has worked to reduce tax rates? Well reducing spending is a valid approach, but when a new capital project is on the table, that seems an unlikely consideration.

Another approach, which has identifiable results, is a tax policy used by the majority of the communities in Massachusetts with a substantial commercial tax base similar to Southborough’s. The common name for the policy is called “ a split tax rate”. In the Southborough tradition, the mere suggestion of such a change in policy has not been warmly embraced. At Town Meeting a couple of years ago, a warrant article suggesting to the Selectmen they consider such change was defeated in resounding vote against it. Tradition and cultural norms are not easily modified.

So, what is a “split tax rate” and is it a rational idea? A split tax rate is different from our current tax policy that sets the tax rate for residential and commercial property at the same dollar value. A split tax rate assigns different tax rates for residential and commercial property, with the commercial rate being higher.

Is it rational for Southborough to adopt a split tax rate? Lets start by comparing our commercial tax rate to other local communities.

Community 2017 Commercial Tax Rate
Framingham $36.52
Marlborough $26.41
Sudbury $25.02
Westborough $17.80
Northborough $17.29
Hopkinton $16.80
Ashland $16.70
Southborough $16.38

How we have achieved the lowest commercial tax rate in the area is an interesting circumstance. Are we the best in running an efficient government? With the average residential tax bill in Southborough second only to Sudbury, this is an unlikely reason. The structural explanation is two-part sequence. First as mentioned before is the residential and commercial tax rates are tied together in our single tax rate policy. The second part is the relatively high average assessed value of the residences in Southborough. Since the residential property in Southborough is 80% of the property assessed for real estate taxes, high average property values drive down tax rate for all, both residential and commercial properties with a tax single rate.

So as you consider undertaking capital improvements in our town, consider alternatives to the traditional means for supporting the cost of these improvements.

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21 D. McGee February 28, 2017 at 11:15 AM

Carl…very thoughtful and logically presented. After reading, I am struggling to come up with arguments against a split-tax policy. I assume one is that the Town is fearful it would drive away businesses with a higher commercial tax rate. However, that fear would appear to be unsubstantiated based on the comparison to commercial tax rates of neighboring communities (to which departing business would most likely relocate).

Are there other arguments against that you are aware of?

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22 beth February 28, 2017 at 11:40 AM

Since you are curious what the opposition is – Back in 2014, after Carl posted a letter to the editor on the subject, Chris Robbins posted this rebuttal letter.

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23 D. McGee February 28, 2017 at 1:58 PM

Thanks Beth, that’s great!

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24 Carl Guyer March 1, 2017 at 9:05 AM

Beth has provided a “rebuttal” from EDC member Chris Robbins. Chris is a friend of mine and I do understand his fears associated with implementation of a split rate tax policy. I just want to follow up on one of his points. As often stated by the EDC, 2/3 of the communities in Massachusetts are single rate communities and 1/3 are split rate communities. That is fact. But is is not a 2 to 1 vote against split rate taxes. You need to understand that the 1/3 of the communities that have split rates are also the 1/3 of the communities with the highest percentage of their assessed property as commercial property. Communities with high concentrations of commercial development have an issue with eroded residential property values. That drives up their tax rate and to compensate they split the tax rate to prevent overburdening residents with large tax bills. It is this scenario that makes me question to validity of a high average residential property town like Southborough advocating for expansion of the commercial tax base. We are already at the top end of the range for communities with significant residential property values. It we wish to have a significant commercial tax base, the existing model says you couple it with a split tax rate. And there is more detail to this story. Anyone wishing to see more can send me an email : carl.guyer@gmasil.com.

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25 D. McGee March 1, 2017 at 11:32 AM

Thanks Carl. I don’t really buy the idea of businesses fleeing Southborough due to a split tax rate. For example, a company with a property assessed at $10 million would only pay about $16,000 more per year if the commercial rate was raised from $16.38 to $18.00 per thousand (in line with Westborough). That is a negligible cost increase for a typical company operating from a $10 million property, and certainly not enough of an imposition to cause the company the incredible inconvenience of moving.

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26 Carl Guyer March 2, 2017 at 9:39 AM

One last bit of information. 78% of the commercial assets in Massachusetts are within communities with split rate tax policies. For anyone to think implementation of a split rate tax structure in Southborough is out of the ordinary is probably unaware of this simple fact.

27 louise barron February 28, 2017 at 9:52 AM

Student, do you have a name. You’re young. You will get it when you have to have your paycheck all but stolen out from under you. There is too much government and that includes this town. Leave it at that

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28 D. McGee February 28, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Wow, could you possibly be more condescending? Student replied to a poster’s vague and unsupported assertion regarding “more government power” with thoughtful and specific clarifying questions. The dismissive answer of “you’re young” reaffirms what I suspect is Student’s doubt that the original poster could specifically cite what the knee-jerk, throw away line of “more government power” actually meant in this case.

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29 D. McGee February 28, 2017 at 11:06 AM

I also find it very ironic that many folks who complain that there is “too much government” have no problem with the government telling women what they can do with their bodies, telling us who can and can’t be married, telling us who can use which bathrooms and telling us what substances we can use. Unfortunately, “too much government” often applies only to folks when it fits their agenda.

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30 Jojama February 28, 2017 at 12:00 PM

D. McGee,

You took the words right out of my mouth. It is a reflection of what is going on in our country! Make some outrageous statements and then use bully tactics when cornered with an intelligent question you can’t answer. Student, I don’t know how old you are but by the question you posed, I can tell you have much more insight than the origanal posters.

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31 Student February 28, 2017 at 12:45 PM

Hi Ms. Barron,

Yes, I use a pseudonym, but why is it so necessary for me to use my real name? I’m clearly not on here for sinister reasons. It is your choice not to use a pseudonym and mine to use one. Let’s leave it at that.

Secondly, this public safety complex will act as a replacement to the current police and fire stations. Again, I’m not really sure if that equates to “government control”. It’s public safety, not government surveillance.

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32 D. McGee February 28, 2017 at 1:46 PM

Student,

Whether or not you use your name should have absolutely no impact on the validity or importance of the questions you raised in a respectful, thoughtful manner. Rather than criticizing you, we should all be thankful that a younger person like yourself has taken a keen interest in local politics.

Keep staying informed, keep staying active, and never let the very vocal minority bully you into thinking your opinions don’t matter!

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33 resident February 28, 2017 at 1:07 PM

Play nice Louise. You have no idea who that was and if they are young, old or indifferent. That person may already have a paycheck that they dole out. The nice thing about this board is that you can post anonymously. It is unfortunate that you are not happy with that, but many others are for various reasons. Let’s just be nice to each other.

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34 Jack February 28, 2017 at 2:03 PM

I will go ahead and guess that the student does have a name. I would also guess that they are likely young, but I wouldn’t state it as a fact. While I do pay taxes, I have never had my paycheck “all but stolen”, so don’t get depressed about your future, Young Student.

I think Student had legitimate perfectly legitimate questions to vague references made by Mike. The only mistake Student made was assuming that Mike was referencing something that could be cited as factual. If that was the case, however, Mike would have been able to simply answer Student’s questions without anyone taking it personally or getting upset.

For the record, eminent domain comes with lots of legal costs and requires that the land is necessary to be taken. Multiple people have posted the link with proposed alternatives for the public safety buildings, so I’m pretty sure a 12 year old could prove that taking St. Mark’s land is not a necessity for the town. It sounds good though, so please bring up the use of eminant domain as your proposal at town meeting.

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35 Mike Fuce February 28, 2017 at 10:19 AM

Thank you Louise Baron, I decided in the past I will not respond to people that do not post their names. I too at one time did not but feel it should be a prerequisite. Sometimes I forget to use my last name but you can always assume the mike is Mike Fuce. Thank you for your website beth.

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36 louise barron February 28, 2017 at 11:42 AM

D. McGee I do not want to go to the bathroom with a man. Thank you very much. There are instances where I find the common man or woman do not possess the sense of right and wrong, therefore authorities must step in.

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37 D. McGee February 28, 2017 at 1:52 PM

Exactly…”government stay out of my life!!!” *

* (unless I disagree)

So disingenuous and hypocritical. Who defines those circumstances when the “common man or woman” does not possess the “sense of right and wrong” requiring authorities to step in? You? Do you ever stop to consider that maybe it’s YOUR sense of right and wrong that may be out of step with the rest of the state and country?

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38 Jack February 28, 2017 at 2:06 PM

Simple solution for you – don’t use a public (i.e. government-provided) restroom.

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39 M February 28, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Student,
Thank you for your intelligent, well-written, and thoughtful response.

No one is required to post their names on this site. Personally, I find that as long as we are civil, it is acceptable. I think of the blog as a means of asking questions, staying informed, and adding to the viewpoints. Were it to become partisan or infused with slander and bickering, I would feel less respect for those commenters in person, and would not utilize the blog.

As for Mike’s big government comment, Student, I would ponder that he feels Town employees support large public projects to add to their own job security and thereby “power”. He may feel that their vested interest in our Town is not as legitimate as his or another citizen’s and their self-interest is tainted while ours is not. This has been a view of public employees forever, most anywhere one lives, justified or not. To be clear, I do not share this view. But you were right to ask him to clarify.

I hope other students add their opinions to this blog. This old town can use some fresh viewpoints.

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40 beth February 28, 2017 at 1:48 PM

A reader asked me to share how people can obtain a yes or no sign for the public safety bldg.

Anyone know?

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41 resident February 28, 2017 at 3:54 PM

I think Desiree had them on her FB page

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42 Latisquama Resident February 28, 2017 at 4:53 PM
43 Scott Navaroli March 1, 2017 at 11:58 AM

To receive a YES Public Safety Sign,

https://www.facebook.com/friendsofsobops/?fref=nf

Thank you,

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44 mike fuce March 1, 2017 at 5:11 PM

I am curious, seriously. Why are all the yes signs on townies (self described, not my label), town workers, and democrats (registered, public record) lawns all over town? There has to be a reason and I am seriously curious why the push? And not to be butting into business of others but did CGP put up the signs on and along their property on Cordaville at Post Office and across from Transfer Station?. If not, did you get permission? Last I knew, they – CGP did not want signs up for any cause. You know you have to have permission correct? One can not just stick a sign anywhere they wish. It is meant to show support by a particular land owner. And you may only put signs on your property 10′ off of the road. This I am told from the “Fence watchers” committee >:

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45 M March 2, 2017 at 12:07 PM

Mike,
Oh, You must be very curious to take the time to research the addresses and voter registration of those who put up signs. That is a lot of work. Why can’t you just accept the old-fashioned notion of folks putting a yard sign to support their view ? It is the ultimate form of “identify yourself” as you want bloggers to do.

It seems you are trying to make it a partisan issue. You have no real way of determining if democrats support one view and republicans another. But it shouldn’t make a difference. You are implying nefarious activity. How about if you ask a town employee or neighbor with a sign, someone whose opinion you may respect, why they support? Have a real discussion. It may satisfy your curiosity.

46 Townie March 2, 2017 at 12:26 PM

I’m going to take an educated guess and say the reason you’re seeing these signs on certain properties is due to the fact he owners of said properties fully what’s at stake with article 1&2 and want to express their beliefs. The opposition has chose this same tactic with their “no development” signs. Have you done any research on these property owners? What their occupation is and political party they have registered with? I’ve seen the opposition’s signs and they’re are definitely not 10′ off the road.

I’m curious, seriously. You stated above “And not to be butting into business of others”. Why did you resorted to attacking the yes supporters by calling them out for where they work and their political stance?

47 Chris (Student) March 2, 2017 at 8:53 PM

Hi Mike,

I am worried that you often become caught up in the nuances of many town issues by making them partisan. On this site, I have seen you claim that the political ideology of town residents determines their opinion on nonpartisan local issues. I find this to be divisive and rather unproductive to the civil discourse that open discussion threads embrace. It’s not a national issue. This obsession with tying residents’ views on local issues with their political affiliations is completely unnecessary.

48 Rose Mauro March 2, 2017 at 9:26 PM

I have no idea what Mike is talking about, because I think the issue of good policing cuts across party boundaries. I am a registered Democrat, but I’m sure many of my Republican neighbors would also like to see well-trained, professional police and fire departments in every community in America. We need to treat our brothers and sisters in public safety with respect, just as we expect that they treat all people with respect. And that means giving them the proper facilities to do their job.

49 David parry March 26, 2017 at 12:40 PM

WANTED – A FREE COMPUTER FOR A SENIOR CITIZEN

I have a senior friend who has NEVER used a computer, nor the money to buy one.

Does anyone have a desktop or laptop that they no longer need? It does not have to be fancy and up to date …. Just working.

If we get one, then we will teach him how to do basic e mailing to friends, and searches, and Youtube, etc.

Please help us change his life.

Please call me, David Parry, at 774 249 8544 if you can help.

Thank you.

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