Select Board member calls for audit of St. Mark’s Street & Park project

Above: Voters raised many questions about the financial malfeasance around the park and road project next to the Library. Now a Select Board member is pushing for an independent audit. (photos by Beth Melo) 

Last week, I wrote that the Select Board members seemed happy that the St. Mark’s Street and Park project would soon be in their rear view mirror. It appears that isn’t the case for all of them.

At last night’s meeting, member Al Hamilton told the board he believes an independent audit of the controversial construction project should be conducted. He told the board that he believed it was needed to address lingering mistrust in the community.

Hamilton’s request followed up on an announcement he made on this blog in response to critical comments about the project. In a comment posted on Monday, he previewed that he would be requesting the audit.

In his statement last night, Hamilton explained:

 it falls to this board to take proactive steps to reassure the public that it has the capacity to responsibly manage the funds provided by the taxpayers. . . 

The goal should be to identify and quantify the direct and indirect costs associated with this project including legal, engineering, design, administration construction, and other costs associated with the project. The result should be presented in a public forum and to Town Meeting.

I believe these actions are necessary to regain public trust and assure a skeptical public that the Select Board takes its responsibility for the effective administration of public monies seriously, as I know it does.

You can read the full statement he made (and subsequently shared with me today) here.

Rather than debate the issue that night, Hamilton asked for it to be placed on a future agenda.

The statement was made under “Member Reports” on the meeting agenda. Because the public wasn’t notified of the topic in the agenda, there was no discussion among other members.

Hamilton had no official involvement in the street and park project prior to his election this past May, after Town Meeting finally gave the greenlight for the project to be completed. His only related prior role was as an outspoken voter at the Town Meetings in which related Articles were addressed.

At Town Meeting in 2022, Hamilton argued against the project and the process by which he believed the board had usurped Town Meeting authority. As noted in his statement, in 2023, he was among the past critics who advocated that approving the Town’s new Articles for a land swap and finishing the park was the best path forward.

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David Parry
1 month ago

Mr Hamilton deserves our support in his quest to do a forensic audit of the St Marks Rd Project.

However the audit should not be limited to the AMOUNTS of money and FINANCIAL MIS-MANAGEMENT.

The bigger issue should be to question WHY THE TOWN WAS JUSTIFIED IN SPENDING

It is high time to ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE MAIN PURPOSE of this project was to PROVIDE A MORE BEAUTIFUL MAIN ENTRANCE TO ST MARKS SCHOOL. This purpose is fine — and it implies that the private school should have paid all costs and managed the Project themselves, with minimal Town involvement.

Mr Hamilton will likely face an uphill battle getting the 4 other Selectboard members to go along with an audit, because all 4 helped force this Project through Town Meeting. Even the Advisory Committee went along. Noone had the guts to say STOP … Let St Marks School manage it and pay for it 100%.

David Parry
1 month ago

The investigation called for by Selectboard Hamilton requires an examination of THE REASON OR JUSTIFICATION FOR THE St Marks Rd project. FOR

the huge cost of abandoning the existing intersection, and then moving it, and replacing it, with a brand new intersection — located 500 feet south, further down Rt 85?

WAS THE REASON given (for abandonment of the existing road) that there was a MAJOR TRAFFIC HAZARD ? … NO … that was NOT the reason given by the SelectBoard. And here is why …There had PREVIOUSLY been a minor hazard to traffic in the distant past, but this hazard was RESOLVED 20 years ago by the previous Town DPW, headed (back then) by Superintendant John Boland. John Boland did not see any need to abandon the intersection and move it … at huge cost … NO … instead, he sensibly left the intersection where it was, but adjusted the former, sharply pointed shape of the intersection, by changing it into a new, wider “Tee” shape, thereby allowing safer turns onto Rt 85. This existed until this year. And it worked fine for traffic. There have been NO traffic accidents reported.

SO WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM WITH THE INTERSECTION — WHICH WAS CLAIMED OFFICIALLY — TO JUSTIFY ABANDONMENT ? … There was only ONE claim made by Town officials (the DPW Superintendent, Town Administrator and FULL 5 member SelectBoard) … This one claim was that the intersection had “dangerous flooding.” So, let’s look at this claim in more depth, to see if it holds up.

WAS THIS CLAIM OF “DANGEROUS FLOODING” ACCURATE? …. NO, it was NOT accurate. It was grossly exxagerated. The flooding was NOT “dangerous” for several reasons … because it was:

1. “Inter-mittent”. (Only occurring during exceptionally heavy rainstorms … about once a year).

2. Very shallow. (Just one to two inches deep).3. Small area. (Only 10 x 20 ft … the size of a garage).

3. Easily solvable at low cost. (About $5,000. … to make a hole in a fieldstone wall which had been built illegally by St Marks School).

“INTERMITTENT FLOODING” means that the flooding occurred ONLY after exceptionally heavy rainstorms … about once a year, and even then it was only a few inches deep. The flooding area was so small that cars could drive around it.

In the 10 years that the flooding existed, no cars had any accidents and no cars got stuck in the shallow water, which soon dried up.


Twenty years ago, St Marks wanted to “beautify” the intersection. because it was located at their formal front entrance … So the School built an attractive stone wall at the intersection. HOWEVER, there were twp problems with the new wall.

1. The new wall was located within the Town road right-of-way.

2. Additionally, the new wall blocked the pre-existing drainage … because previously the rain water drained AWAY from the intersection over the adjacent grass lawns, but now the dranage was blocked by the new stone wall … However. that problem could easily have been corrected — by theTown ordering St Marks to make a small hole in the base of the wall.

WHY WASN’T ST MARKS ORDERED BY THE TOWN TO RE-OPEN THE DRAINAGE SWALE ? … Because of a “cosy relationship”, which became even cosier because of official (but secret) negotiations over PILOT payments, and also close personal relationships, such as the fact that our (former) Town DPW head was an alumnus of St Marks School.

THE TOWN GAVE ST MARKS A HUGE UNDESERVED “GIFT”. …What Town officials SHOULD have done — is instruct the St Marks to resolve the flooding problem they created.

Here comes the gigantic irony … instead of ordering St M to resolve the drainage at the expense of St M, our Town officials proposed THE DIRECT OPPOSITE — Offering to use Town’s funds instead. Eventually these funds grew to well over $1 million … all of it spent unnecessarily to directly benefit a wealthy private school.

HOW DID TOWN OFFICIALS COME UP WITH THIS SPENDING SCHEME? …. This brings us to the REAL BUT HIDDEN reason for this scheme. It originated from work undertaken by a Town SelectBoard special “Task Force”, whose task was negotiate higher “PILOT” payments (“Payments In Lieu Of Taxes”) from St Marks School. We will deal with this matter next.

RAISING THE AMOUNT OF “PILOT” MONEY FROM ST MARKS. In 2020 , the Selectboard created a special Town task force to solve a hot political issue — that of raising the amount of “PILOT” payments made by all the non-profit organisations in town — including St Marks School. This task force met secretly with St Marks School officials, to negotiate this matter.

WHAT IS THE AMOUNT OF “PILOT” FUNDS DONATED BY ST MARKS SCHOOL ? … Here are the exact numbers for St Marks School property in Southborough:

Total St M land area : 211 acres.
Total Assessed value: $115,500,000.
Actual PILOT donated: $40,000 / year.

HYPOTHETICAL PROPERTY TAX which WOULD be owed on actual $115 million assessed value — IF St M was a FOR-profit organisation:
$ 1,704,000. (!.7 million) / year.

What this demonstrates is that St Marks would be paying 40 times as much — IF they were a FOR-profit institution. (1,704,000 divided by 40,000. = 40).



In the course of the PILOT negotiations in 2020, a closely related issue arose … What actions could the Town “legally” do to help a rich private school like St Marks … which would encourage the School to modestly increase their PILOT payments ?

Next is where you can begin to discern, dimly, where this is headed … the PILOT task force was expanded by the Town Administrator to include two additional people — (1) The Town DPW Superintendant, Karen Galligan, (who is an alumnus of St Marks School) and (2) the Town road engineering consultant firm, Vanesse Hangen.

This expanded Task Force made a costly proposal to St Marks — that the Town could help BEAUTIFY THE MAIN FORMAL ENTRANCE INTO ST MARKS SCHOOL (which is at the intersection of StcMarks Rd and Rt 95)7, and also figure out a way for St Marks to increase the size of their GUEST PARKING LOT . This guest parking was previously located on grass, SOUTH of the previous intersection — but in FUTURE it will be much larger and located over the abandoned road, NORTH of the NEW intersection.

THE “PILOT” TASK FORCE CAME UP WITH THE NEW ROAD SCHEME, AT THE DIRECT REQUEST OF OFFICIALS FROM ST MARKS … The engineering sub-task-force responded to the request from St Marks officials (according to the engineer from Vanesse Hangen) by devising an entirely new, ambitious and costly, road and parking lot scheme — whereby the Town would move the entire intersection 500 feet south, so that the land under the old (former) road and intersection would become part of the newly enlarged parking lot ), to be used privately by St Marks School guests.

So our Town government devised and promoted the Project, with the active support of St Marks School, which would benefit in two ways:

(1) By being “let off the hook” of any responsibility for originally causing the flooding, and therefore having to pay in full for the remedy.

(2) St Marks School gets a large new parking lot situated on land which was previously used for a perfectly good road.

THIS SCHEMING PROCEEDED WITHOUT ANY PUBLIC OVERSIGHT … BECAUSE OF THE COVID EPIDEMIC RESTRICTIONS AGAINST PUBLIC MEETINGS … There was a complete lack of oversight because of COVID. Much of this scheming happened in SECRET, when there were NO public meetings, and nobody was paying attention.

This project should never have happened. Or it should have been paid for 100 % by St Marks School, which is the primary beneficiary.

This project is the perfect (worst) example of SCANDALOUS GIFT of Town funds to a rich private institution.

OTHER PETTY CORRUPTION ON THIS PROJECT … Furthermore, the Project is riddled with mis-spending of State Highway grant money … on non-eligible items. You doubt me? … just read past editions of My Southborough. But missing was any reporting about Town officials being ordered into Boston and interrogated over this mis-spending, by the State Inspector General’s Office … which may still be going on.

In a normal Town, you could expect a truthful explanation from the Town Administrator, who oversaw this project and gave orders to Town DPW. But the sad fact is that Southborough isn’t a “normal” town in this sense, because the Town Administrator has been in office so long, and he intimidates Town employees. In my opinion, he should have been fired for his mis-managment of this project. But our previous Select Board not only failed to stop the petty corruption, but some members actively participated in it and promoted it. For instance, there were three (3) notorious Conflicts of Interest… all investigated by the State Inspector General, and State Ethics Commission.

FEW TOWN BOARDS HAVE TOLD US THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS PROJECT … Only two town boards have been truthful about this project, and they are the Historical Commission and the Planning Board. But they have both been stymied and denied by bullies on the Selectboard, and by the SelectBoard’s consultant Town Counsel (who serves the SelectBoard’s political needs). And these two boards have been stymied, above all, by the inept Town Administrator, Mark Purple — who is SUPPOSED to be in charge of DPW. Yet it is an established FACT that (until the recent change in DPW Superintendants) the dictatorial DPW was literally out of control under Supertendant Galligan — who was FINALLY removed by her boss — Town Administrator Mark Purple — in November 2022, because of continuing fiascos on other projects. Both the Historical Commission and Planning Board have been truthful about the St Marks Rd project, but they have been sandbagged by the previous domineering SelectBoard, and by their political Town Counsel who tells them what they want to hear.


Selectboard member Hamilton will face a brick wall … in his attempt to get the St Marks Rd Project forensically investigated … as it should be. He needs the support of town voters.

Claire Reynolds
1 month ago

As taxpayers, we should all support Al Hamilton’s recommendation to “identify and quantify the direct and indirect costs associated with this project”. While voters approved Articles 12 & 13 (March 2023 Town Meeting), it was the only compromise that would get us out of the mess and move forward.

However, taxpayers deserve to know where our money was spent. We should not be satisfied with a “mistakes were made approach” – taxpayers already know that fact. Also, this request should not be confused with the State’s audit of funds spent.

In business, a post-mortem is completed to identify/study issues to drive continuous improvement and adopt best practices with expensive projects. Supporting Al’s recommendation will go a long way to renewing trust and transparency in our Town government.

Please note this is on the Select Board agenda for Tuesday, November 7th. Thank you, 

David Parry
29 days ago

Al Hamilton, our new Selectboard member, made a valiant attempt (at the Nov 7 meeting) to have an official audit of the disastrous St Marks Rd Project … so that the Town could learn what mistakes were made and prevent a repeat.

What mistakes? There are too many to list here, but top of the list would be clarification of whether PUBLIC FUNDING ( $1.5 million ) should be spent to BENEFIT A PRIVATE SCHOOL.

In this case, the question is — should public funds be spent on moving a road intersection (when it doesn’t need moving), simply to satisfy a rich private school’s request to make a more attractive school entrance, along with a larger school parking lot ? … OR … Should the private school manage and pay for the entire project themselves? HOW AND WHY WAS THIS JUSTIFIED ?

Unsurprisingly, all members except Hamilton voted “NO” to his proposed audit, with minimal discussion, which can be summarized as folllows:

1. DENNINGTON. Selectboard Chairman Dennington said he had learned many uncomfortable lessons, BUT didn’t want to suffer through them again … So he failed to list even one.

2. COOK. Previous Chair Cook repeated her FALSE claim (originally invented as an excuse by former DPW Director Galligan) that the project was needed “to solve a water problem” — BUT she failed to mention some crucial facts about Galligan’s FAKE “problem” :

(A). This minor problem was actually CAUSED BY NONE OTHER THAN ST MARKS SCHOOL ! … How come? Because, years earlier, St Marks had built a stone wall within the Town right-of-way, and this wall blocked rain drainage. So logically Galligan should have demanded that St Marks resolve the problem themselves, at their own expense … “You broke it, you fix it.”

(B). This MINOR SHALLOW PONDING could have been solved easily and very cheaply by St Marks … for instance, by making a small hole in the bottom of the wall, to allow drainage to flow thru again. (The Town did NOT need to move an entire intersection!)

3. LANDRY. Ms Landry said she liked the project because there hadn’t been any flooding at the Library since the intersection was moved … BUT she failed to mention that the Library flooding problem HAD ALREADY BEEN RESOLVED, MANY YEARS EARLIER … by a completely different project (“The Main St Reconstruction Project”) … when the Town and State spent millions on new drains from the Library passing under Main St.

4. STIVERS. And finally Mr Stivers. He thought there can’t have been any mischief with the management of the St Marks Rd project, because the investigation by the State Inspector General (IG) had not resulted in any official complaints. BUT he failed to add the word “YET”, and he also failed to mention that investigations by the IG are ALWAYS conducted in strict secrecy.

So there you have it in a nutshell … Over $1.5 million of your precious taxes have been spent on a useless project to benefit a wealthy private school.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN ? In my opinion, it was because the previous DPW Director Galligan, and Town Administrator Purple (Galligan’s boss), suckered the Selectboard, which didn’t have the guts to say “STOP.”

Worse still, the Selectboard was unable to distinguish between funding for a genuine TOWN PUBLIC PURPOSE vs giving a very expensive GIFT TO A PRIVATE SCHOOL . This gift turns “Payments In Lieu of Taxes” (PILOT) on its head … because this one gift (from the Town to St Marks) cost the Town a sum of money which was so large that it was the equivalent of 40 years worth of PILOT donations from St Marks to the Town — which the Town has to beg for every year !

With no official audit, there will never be an OFFICIAL accounting, nor will we learn why and how the many mistakes were made. Talk about lack of transparency !

All we WILL have … for evidence of multiple petty frauds … will be a long series of articles in MySouthborough … ending in the unsurprising news of the Selectboard’s official refusal on Nov 7 to have an audit … BECAUSE of course the Selectboard was complicit from day one, and an audit would air their dirty laudry.

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