“We went from heroes to goats,” selectman Sal Giorlandino said at last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting. He was describing reaction to the board’s decision last week to remove from the April warrant the article on a new aerial ladder truck.
Giorlandino said since the decision, selectmen have fielded about 20 emails from angry residents who accused the board of acting irresponsibly and not in the best interest of the town.
“I never envisioned the emotion this thing would draw,” Ladder Committee chair Jim Colleary told selectmen at the meeting. Members of the Ladder Committee were there to work out their differences with the selectmen.
But if you went to the meeting last night expecting raised voices, pointed comments, and general municipal drama between the Ladder Committee and the Selectmen (I did, sort of), you would have been disappointed (I was, just a little). The two groups were entirely civil, and in the end, entirely in agreement.
All three selectmen reiterated their strong support for the ladder truck. Giorlandino said the decision to remove the article from the April warrant was never a question of being “anti-ladder-truck,” it was a question of strategy.
In essence, the selectmen felt there were still too many loose ends to take the question to voters. “When there’s a lack of information, that’s when problems come up,” selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said.
Selectmen pointed out a number of gaps. The Ladder Committee hasn’t gone out to bid, so they don’t have a firm price yet, only an estimate of the cost. The option of sharing equipment with neighboring towns, specifically Marlborough, has not been fully explored. Donations from non-profits in town like Harvard, Fay School, and NECC are still being pursued.
And perhaps most importantly, there’s the question of federal stimulus funds. The ladder truck was submitted to the state as one of the town’s “shovel-ready” projects (althouth what a shovel has to do with a ladder truck I’ll never know). Apparently there’s a chance we may get some of the funds.
Representative Danielle Gregoire was at a portion of the meeting last night and told selectmen she hopes to hear soon on fund allocation. If the town voted to appropriate funds for the ladder truck in April before there was an answer on stimulus funds, it could lose out on the federal money altogether.
In the end, the Ladder Committee backed the selectmen’s decision to postpone a vote on the ladder truck to a special town meeting in the fall. “This gives us the time to get the information we need,” Colleary said.
As for the hullabaloo about the decision last week, Fire Ball organizer Stephanie Meyer chalked it up to a lack of communication. “I think the piece that was missing was where you stood on the issue. Were you behind us or was it town politics?”
Why the ladder truck article was removed from the warrant
A ladder truck for Southborough: Series introduction
What great information! Thank you so much for sharing all of this information and consistently presenting a balanced view on issues in our town.
Thanks, B! Glad to have you as a reader!
I’m glad to see that clearer heads prevailed, that explanations were made, and that everyone is on the same page. Let’s dot the i’s, cross the t’s, and get this ready for the fall.
Aren’t there any other businesses that can contribute to the ladder truck other than the hand full that already have?
The last time I looked The New England Center for Children, (a non-profit federally and state funded program) a school that educates disabled children was the only school listed on the Fire Ball’s poster board as a donor; Single Alarm Silver Sponsor.
I believe the schools that the town should hone in on are those with big endowments and who pay very little to the town in the way of PILOT, as well as the multiple businesses with large buildings that would be in more need of such a truck in the event of a fire.
What saddens me is that there’s never any mention of NECC – not many know of the school until there is a need for money by the town. But EVERYONE knows of St. Mark’s and the Fay School – but where’s their money? Oh that’s right it went towards building more school building (which don’t get taxed by the town).
I think the town should start charging the tax-exempt organizations every time they need emergency services to help out with such expenses and department deficits.
Let’s see who the town goes to for funds when the roads that were ripped up during construction along Main Street for building projects go to or what budgets are cut because of repair costs caused by those very organizations, who in my eyes give very little to the town.
Linda, all good points.
For the record, St. Mark’s has donated $100K to be paid out over 10 years for the ladder truck. Town Administrator Jean Kitchen and Selectman Bill Boland said they’re meeting with Harvard this week and are following up with Fay. They’ve already met with NECC and expect to hear back from the school in the near future.
I believe there was also talk about approaching the churches in town.