Letter: From Selecman Dan Kolenda

by Beth Melo on April 16, 2014

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.]

To the Editor:

Tonight is the first night of our Annual Town meeting. There are many important issues to be discussed and voted upon, and I encourage everyone to come out, listen to the issues, debate and vote. This is pure democracy at its best and your active participation in our town is encouraged and appreciated.

I’m back from my Army mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo and it’s great to be home. It was an amazing mission to a truly challenging place. I was proud to represent our Country and Town. I, along with 5 other military officers from each branch of service, helped train approximately 3,000 Congolese soldiers on subjects ranging from the Law of Armed Conflict, Human Rights and Gender Violence. I know we did a lot of good, and left those soldiers and that place better than we found it. You can and should be proud of the work your military does to help make our world a better and safer place to live.

While I was out of the country I understand some controversy was generated regarding election signs. I was sad to see the commentary about mine, especially when I knew and confirmed that there was no time restriction. My supporters and I started things when we did in large measure due to all the upcoming travel I needed to do. I was especially dismayed to see that all the misguided controversy started with a posting by someone using an alias. That person was critical of my signs and indicated he had left me a voicemail alerting me to that concern, likely in an effort to have me take my signs down. I only received one voicemail in that regard, and it was not from an alias, but rather, from Mr. Parry. So it was the pen of Mr. Parry who started all of the controversy, and it was he who was misinformed, and then through his posting using an alias, he misinformed others. He then had the audacity to post under his own name and concluded his post saying “It is not fair to pick on Mr. Kolenda when he is out of the country” and “please lay off a person who is not even here to respond.” Well I am here, and I do want to respond.

This is not about politics. It is about the truth. I have done nothing wrong, nothing other than serve my family, my town and my country, and all my supporters wanted to do before I left was put a sign in their own lawn. Mr. Parry, through an alias, started this by taking the low road, then under his own name tried to take the high road. It is not acceptable behavior for anyone, especially one who seeks to assume a position of significant authority in our Town. Governing is serious business that requires serious people. People who are committed to doing what is right for the entirety of our town, not their own personal agenda. I’m confident that the good people of Southborough are now seeing this more and more.

There has been a lot of discussion about the pending Main Street construction project, as there should be, but Mr. Parry continues to bemoan ‘State rules’ and ‘State funding’ and a ‘State plan.’ Well who is the State? It’s you and me and everyone else who lives in Southborough, State of Massachusetts. It’s our plan, and we will continue to work with our consultant and the people of Southborough, including through a new Working Group your Board is seeking to establish, to ensure that it’s the very best plan possible. Asphalt does not last forever, drainage does not last forever. With increased traffic comes the increased responsibility to move that traffic more efficiently and more safely through our town. New sidewalks and bike paths would also be welcome additions, and would enhance public safety. I believe responsible leadership does not vote in favor of an article at Town Meeting that will likely result in us losing almost $6,000,000 without making an effort to achieve a consensus on the design. If Mr. Parry’s articles pass, what then? Where is that money going to come from? It will come from the pockets of each and every taxpayer in our town, and it may come at the expense of doing other things, such as a new, much needed public safety building. Mr. Parry, who a mere few months ago aggressively urged me to support undergrounding as part of this project, now, with undergrounding removed, is completely against the project.

Mr. Parry, in a bizarre statement at one of our public meetings, misinformed the public and accused me of offering him $10,000 of your money to fund his article. Not only was that patently untrue, it is reflective of someone who cannot separate fact from fiction. Mr. Parry has no hesitation in threatening and belittling people to achieve his objective. I am aware of multiple groups and individuals he has attempted to strong arm to get his way. He even threatened me during a phone call that if I did not support his articles he would come out fully against me during my re-election. Well, I don’t respond to threats and these issues will not be resolved through threats and intimidation. I’ve served in a forward area in Iraq and I’ve been to the Democratic Republic of Congo, categorized by our government as Designated Receipt of Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Area. Mr. Parry’s threats and hostile approach do not intimidate me as I will always do what I think best for the entirety of the town I love.

Dan Kolenda

Chairman, Southborough Board of Selectman

1 Jeff April 16, 2014 at 4:40 PM

So My Parry was the alias on the blog. Interesting. I do hope Mr Parry hasn’t wasted his money on campaign signs.

2 Tim Martel April 17, 2014 at 8:25 AM

All I read was a baseless accusation made publicly by a Selectman for the sole purpose of defaming an election opponent.

3 beth April 17, 2014 at 9:14 AM

The comments referenced were taken down for violating comment policy. So to clarify the foundation of the accusation –

Anonymous comments criticizing Mr. Kolenda for putting up political signs originated with a commenter who later posted:

“I called Mr Kolenda’s house myself and left a message, and said that I questioned if his signs were allowed to be up so early, and he might be wise to check first, please. That call was made on Monday March 24. I did not do this because I oppose him, but to do him a favor !…. To point out that he might want to first check if signs were allowed up that early, because I and my neighbors had never seen signs up so early — 7 weeks before an election. . .

Is Mr Kolenda immune from our laws? Does he want to get an unfair and illegal jump on his competitors? Does he want to pollute this town and turn into a fairground with thousands of signs for 7 weeks long ? Personally, I may consider voting for candidates who resist the temptation to put up signs until very close to the election. . .

And Mr Kolenda did not even attend the Annual Town Meeting because he was away, yet again, on another military assignment, so instead his letter was read into the record. This all leads to the basic question: Why is Mr Kolenda on the board at all, since he clearly has no time to handle the town’s business, is continually away, and when he is here he does not follow our laws ?”

As an FYI, I did follow up on the commenter’s accusation that signs were illegally up and suggestion that I ask Building Inspector about law and if he spoke to Kolenda. His response included:

“I haven’t spoken to any Selectman about this issue, but I do agree the zoning bylaw on Political signs is vague and ambiguous at best.

I am currently in the process of rewriting the Political sign bylaw and will have it ready for the next Town meeting to be voted on, I will be looking to define maximum square footage as well as the time frame prior to voting day (move 30 days to 45 days) and the subsequent removal of sign (within 72 hours after election.)”

I pointed him to Al Hamilton’s comments with link website that allege the courts are against limiting the “free speech” of political signs, so that he could check with town counsel before drafting a bylaw. As the matter had been dropped in comments (and I’ve been swamped) I didn’t follow up on it again.

4 Tim Martel April 17, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Thank you for clarifying.

5 Mark Ford April 17, 2014 at 10:22 AM

Thanks Beth, that helps. I believe wordpress records the originating IP address of all comments…there are many tools which, if you were so inclined, you could use to see if the “anonymous” comments were issued from the same computer. It may require more sleuthing than you’d care to give it, but I’m pretty sure the data is there. (A nonmatch isn’t necessarily conclusive since many ISPs issue IP addresses dynamically.)

6 Karen Connell April 16, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Thank you for your service Selectman Kolenda.
Welcome home.

7 David Parry April 17, 2014 at 12:32 AM

REPLY TO SELECTMAN KOLENDA FROM DAVID PARRY ,

Thank you for your letter of April 16, appearing in My Southborough.

Last November we discussed, in your home, an important issue — the incredible lack of understanding about the largest project in the history of Southborough, the “Main St Reconstruction Project”.

1. VETERANS DAY AND VETERANS KNOWLEDGE OF THE STATE PLAN

Some days earlier I had attending the Veterans Day Parade. I took photographs and was saddened to realize what was soon to happen to our Town Common, the nearby intersection and our town’s character in general. I wondered if others were aware of what was looming in the future. So I asked a few of the Vets present to stand with me at te edge of Main St, beside the Knox Memorial stone. I asked them to please describe tome what they thought was going to happen, under the Reconstruction Plan. They knew very little about the project. They had seen the colored posters pinned up in Town Hall (of an obsolete plan prepared by a different engineer). One had heard the common wall was going to be dismantled and moved. Neither had any idea of the scale of the proposed intersection, or the 4 signals. Neither knew of the stacking lanes which will stretch right in front of where we were standing, the trees being cut down, and cost to the taxpayers. That was when I realized this Town faced a huge problem. All residents should know, starting with our most revered citizens, Veterans.

2. THE COMPLEXITY OF THE STATE PLAN

When I visited your house days later, I explained the process of construction, where the entire right-of-way is going to be excavated, including all the sidewalks and the tree belts, block by bock , over 1 mile. You did not seem to be aware of this, and this is not a criticism of you. The problem is that this project is big and complex. The only way to understand it is to spend hours perusing 54 sheets, each large 3’ x 4’ in size. These plans show proposed (new) in black, and existing conditions in light gray color. It is very difficult for a non-engineer to understand it’s magnitude of change.

I told you that I thought there was a real danger of massive opposition. You asked me for suggestions. I said that the Selectmen need to arrange for large meetings at which the project can be explained, and notice has to be sent to every abutter, because there have been numerous changes to the plans. Residents are totally unaware of these changes, and there has been no notice or public review of these changes.

3. LOCAL FUNDING FOR A PEER REVIEW

I suggested that we needed a re-assessment, a peer review, by an independent consultant, under the guidance of a Review Committee, and funds would be needed so that the Committee could operate independently. You asked me how much funding wold be needed. I answered by requesting over $50,000 but not to worry about that large figure, because I could raise most of it privately. However, I would appreciate a nominal amount from the Town as a show of moral support and serious interest in resolving the outstanding problems. You asked me what that meant, and I indicated that I considered anything less than $10,000 as not being a meaningful commitment. You said that might be possible, and you would contact Mark Purple, the Town Administrator, the next day to run it by him.

Following my meeting with you, I went to the home of Selectman Rooney and had essentially the same conversation with him, and he listened with keen interest. .

4. THE ORIGIN OF THE $15,000 APPEARING IN ARTICLE 28

At a later date I went to meet with Mark Purple and we discussed the issue in some detail, including my earlier conversations with both Selectman Kolenda and Rooney. When we came to the issue of funding, I asked him what he thought might be an appropriate amount, and he put forward the figure of $15,000. I said that was more reasonable and “I’ll take it!”.

That is the origin of the $15,000 funding requested in Article 28.

Now please bear in mind that I have had many conversations with potential donors, engineers and residents, since meeting with you at your house in November. The issue of funding has come up numerous times. I only mention one name here, that of Mark Purple.

5. THE ONE PUBLIC REVIEW HELD ON APRIL 2

Thank you for arranging for one meeting with VHB engineers, on April 2. It is a pity you could not attend, because there were over 120 present — over the number required for a Town Meeting Quorum. Numerous questions were asked and remain unanswered. Most of the residents present were vocally against the project and were asking repeatedly: How can it be stopped? Selectman Boland avoided a direct answer, until Mr Cimino provided the answer – by having the Selectman vote to cancel the project. You can watch the TV tape.

6. THE MOST EXPENSIVE “FREE” STATE-FUNDED PROJECT IN TOWN HISTORY

One of the few answers that did emerge from the April 2 meeting was the high cost of the State Plan for our Town. We, the Town are paying for all engineering fees. By April 2, DPW had spent over $450,000. That has now grown to over $500,000 just to get to 25%. We are headed toward a total local cost approaching $2,000,000. We have not even started on the MEPA filings for the wetland impacts, nor the legal and financial cost of easements. There is a serious question of a project out of financial control, let alone being out of control in terms of resident participation and satisfaction..

7. WARRANT ARTICLE : REVIEW COMMITTEE HAS A BROAD MANDATE

There was brief discussion on April 2 of Article # 27 and the creation of the Review Committee,. This is to be created by Town Meeting, with members appointed by the Moderator to keep politics out of it. One of the purposes of the Committee is to recommend on the subject of easements, of which there are 7, and they each require a 2/3rds vote of Town Meeting. – a very difficult hurdle to cross. The Committee is the creation of Town Meeting, but it can choose to report to the new 5 member Board of Selectmen at ANY time of its choosing. For example:

(i) The Committee could have an INITIAL report before the June 18 State Hearing;

(ii) The Committee could have an INTERIM report in 6 months, to include a presentation of two items:
1. A fine-tuned State Plan, as well as
2. A first draft of a Local Plan.

(iii) The Committee could have a FINAL report to Town Meeting in 2015, when Town Meeting could be offered a real choice. If they vote for the State Plan ( fine-tuned), then they will still have to wait many years for State funding, if it ever comes. If they vote for a Local plan, then the work can begin immediately.

8. REVIEW COMMITTEE CAN UNDERTAKE SEVERAL TASKS. It has a broad mandate: “To determine what is in the best interest of the Town”: This can include examination of easements, and it can also include continuing to work on two broad options open to the Town:

(1) CONTINUING TO FINE-TUNE THE STATE PLAN, AND
(2) PREPARE A LOCAL PLAN

There have been no Local Plans produced in all these years, until last month. The reason is that DPW controlled the meetings and consultant engineer, and insisted that all discussion be limited to a plan within State rules, because that was what State funding required. That is why so many residents simply gave up, in sheer frustration. “You can’t fight Town Hall”. But in this case also “You can’t fight Town DPW”, because it is our DPW that has controlled this project from day # 1, and our DPW that controls the Town consultant.

Therefore the residents have had no alternative except to take the matter under their own control, and create their own Local Plan.

9. A LOCAL PLAN THAT IS LESS EPENSIVE FOR THE TOWN THAN THE ENGINEERING FEES ALONE ARE COSTING FOR THE STATE PLAN

Recently some residents decided to ask seriously, without any DPW involvement, what a Local Plan might consist of, — In the event the State Plan was seriously delayed, or cancelled for any reason, including because it cost the Town too much (e.g. $2,000,000)

This example of a Local Plan would certainly not cost anything approaching $2 mn, so it would be way cheaper than a State Plan ! This would resolve the issues, make the local residents happy, and reduce our taxes.

What does this Local Plan consist of : It consists of solving the few problems which were he original impetus for a road plan (see below) and beyond that the resurfacing of sectins of main St hat urgently need repair. The residents along Main St are only asking for their “fair share” of local funds which are used to resurface streets. We have 1 mile of road, whereas the Town has 67 miles of road. We want 1 / 67 th. Please.

10. THE ORIGINAL PROBLEMS, BACK BEFORE THIS PROJECT STARTED.
The Local Plan will fix these problems as well as repair our Main St:
.
* A safer sidewalk, from Middle to Latisquama,.
* 2 left turns of very small cost
(1) Heading west on Main and turning south down 85
(2) Heading north up 85 and turning west along Main.
These can be done without adding more than 100 sq ft of asphalt at each left turn (as opposed to acres and acres of asphalt under the State Plan, which has 4 left turns and long stacking lanes).

So there is no need for you to claim that a Local Plan need jeopardize a new public safety complex, or anything else. A “Local Plan” is just that:

* We can do only what WE want (and not what the State wants).
* We operate under one rule: to maintain safety (and not the book of rules of the State).
* We start when we want to (and not when State funding arrives, if it ever arrives).
We can even start next year.

11. WHY NOT ASK A BASIC QUESTION:

WHAT DO THE ABUTTING RESIDENTS OF 1 MILE OF MAIN ST WANT ?
Are you afraid of the answer. ? I ask you to seriously consider this, just as a matter of common courtesy. Selectman Rooney has stated repeatedly that is most important question of all. So why not ask it ?

Thank you for your interest in the long range future of Southborough

David Parry

8 who is embarrassed now? April 17, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Re: #11. I have two “BASIC QUESTIONS”

1) Did you misrepresent yourself to the State?

2) In your reply above, you again fail to address peoples concerns about you, you did not deny posting annonymously about Mr Kolenda’s signs. Did you write that post?

These are yes or no questions, no need for the War and Peace answer.

From my stand point, the simple Truth seems to be an issue….

9 Diane R. April 17, 2014 at 8:23 AM

It is difficult for me, and I’m sure others with similarly busy schedules, to wade through all the muck to get at the real issue(s) of concerns. Although I did not read Mr. Parry’s reply carefully, it did appear that he has tried to stay focused on the Main Street Reconstruction Project and I applaud him for that.

I agree that some of us may not be as informed as we need to be regarding this project. I wonder, though, whether anyone has ever been to Sudbury or Wayland on Route 20 during rush hour? It makes Southborough look easy to navigate!

Instead of meeting at the Transfer Station, why are we not putting our efforts into making the nice shopping area across from the Transfer Station more of a meeting place? It’s not on Route 9 and it’s convenient. What about a Tween Center? What about an Indoor Pool so the children don’t have to take swimming lessons in another town or on Route 9 at McCarthy’s Pools. I apologize for my diversions.

Biking on main street? That seems like the least of our issues…..

10 southsider April 17, 2014 at 2:22 PM

So David Parry was the person who sent in posts to this site under different names!

I’m assuming Beth would not have allowed this fact to make this public record if it was incorrect.

So sad..

11 beth April 17, 2014 at 3:05 PM

I am not identifying the person or people responsible for that comment or others.

The comment in question was anonymous. If David Parry posted under two different identities, that would be a violation of policy. Mr. Kolenda says that the person who made the call referred to in the comment was David Parry. I am not making that claim but can’t deny it either.

12 Diane R. April 17, 2014 at 4:49 PM

This forum doesn’t work for me (just some more muck about dirty politics/accusations). With absolutely no offense to Beth, we need a newspaper dedicated to Southborough NEWS.

13 Resident10K April 17, 2014 at 5:18 PM

One only needs to study the punctuation, spacing and prose style of the “anonymous” post to know the likely author. Notice the extensive use of ellipses, unnecessary spaces before question marks, and prose style. No IP address needed for this former editor!

14 Mark Ford April 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM

In the “straining credibility” department, note that you are anonymously trying to out the identity of an anonymous poster. Classic.

15 Resident10K April 22, 2014 at 3:07 PM

The difference is, I only post under one identity, which is anonymous for safety/privacy reasons and perfectly acceptable. Posting as oneself and then sometimes posting anonymously (as is suggested here) is a little bizarre.

I am not trying to out anyone. I am merely pointing out that the author of that particular post left fingerprints all over it and therefore kind of “outed” himself. Whether I appear credible or not in this arena is irrelevant to me. Look for yourself and form your own opinion.

16 fayville resident April 23, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Please stop all this muckraking. Isn’t our town better than that? I don’t care if the choices contain firemen.soldiers,bakers, developers or an Indian chief. I care about good character and honesty. With all this nastiness and petty remarks, very few are likable at this point. Sign gate is just one sign of this craziness.

17 Mark Ford April 23, 2014 at 8:23 PM

You know, I was going to let this go, but I changed my mind.

I’m sorry you feel there are safety/privacy issues by expressing your identified view on town matters; as to me, (and I think to many others), I truly believe that people of good intent, good character, and good mind can differ in opinion–sometimes over minutiae, and sometimes over fundamental principles. Such is the nature of democracy.

Safety? Are your posts really that provocative? (And if so, please point me to them–I need a good read!)

Personally, I trust that the editor of these pages–first Suzanne, now Beth–will protect the poster’s identity as they see fit. You may remember that it was I who posted that the identity of the alleged multiple poster might be unmasked by an IP address analysis; Beth, perhaps wisely, has chosen not to do so.

I wouldn’t lend too much credence to your Strunkian conclusions, any more than I would presume to narrow down the potential residents who run 10Ks and might post on this board in order to glean your own identity.

But all in all, time to move on, right? ;-)

18 Resident April 24, 2014 at 10:16 AM

If you actually believe that comments on this blog are seen and judged only by residents of Southborough, you are mistaken and naive. When an individual comments on any public internet forum using their full name, that post is searchable through any internet search engine by any individual in the world with an internet connection and the means to do so. That means that your political opinions are out there for the whole world to see and judge. That may pose a minimal privacy or security risk for some, but a greater risk for others. For example, if one is retired with a measure of financial security, the risk is probably pretty low. However, if one is in the job force or owns a small business, having their political views searchable on the internet could pose a very great risk to their family’s financial security. Potential employers and customers in this day-and-age often search the internet for an individual’s name and if they don’t agree with what they read, may reject that candidate or business owner. In this economy, one cannot afford to say “well I don’t want to work with people like that anyway.”

Along with that, there is always the very real risk of an “internet nut case” who does not like what you believe, how you express yourself, how many times you use all caps, your spelling, your grammar, how many times you use the phrase “be that as it may” – who knows – and can easily find out where you live and where your children go to school. And, no, I do not dismiss the possibility that such a person might live in the town of Southborough.

If you feel safe expressing yourself on the wold wide web without hesitation, then that is your right, but I would call it foolish or risky before I would call it brave or weight your words more heavily because you choose to do so. That’s just me.

Maybe it is a question of age. Younger people who understand the global and permanent reach of the internet are far more likely to take such things seriously. Heck, even high school students change their names on Facebook so that college recruiters cannot read and judge their social network interactions.

I just wish that people would accept and acknowledge that there are very different feelings on the issue of internet security and stop criticizing each other for their choice.

19 Resident10K April 24, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Thank you so much, Resident. You have saved me a lot of time explaining this. And yes, Mark, it is time to move on.

20 Mark Ford April 25, 2014 at 9:46 AM

I didn’t really need (or seek) an explanation of why people choose anonymity; it’s too bad that it’s felt as necessary, and it’s a worldview I choose not to embrace. But we’re not going to convince one another. I will say that Resident, above, shows some ageism that I don’t think is borne out. My experience, for example, is that those “younger people” who have multiple online identities–one for personal and one for “public” usage–usually do so at the behest of their parents.

My main point was that we’ve got an anonymous poster trying to personally identify other anonymous posters, which I find ironic. It’s simple enough to mimic Mr. Parry’s idiosyncratic style of posting to discredit him. Beth has chosen (wisely, I think) to protect anonymity and not pursue this further. This same policy protects all anonymous posters.

21 Resident10K April 25, 2014 at 10:23 AM

I agree that someone could mimic the style. I should perhaps have been less confident in my opinion. But it is just my opinion, so let’s just let it go!

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