Originally published in The Weekly Packet, August 2, 2018
Special town meeting raises questions over town account
by Anne Berleant
A town account designated for land purchases does not have to be used for that purpose, Selectmen Ellen Best and Vaughn Leach said two days after a failed July 25 special town meeting vote to spend $458,000 on a Salt Pond parcel. While money received from the sale by the town of tax-acquired property is placed in that account, it can be used elsewhere with a town vote.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s unappropriated [surplus],” Leach said.
The question of how the account began, and on what it can be spent, arose at the selectmen’s weekly meeting July 27. Marcia Henderson said she overheard some citizens at the special town meeting stating the belief the fund could only be used for land purchases. Her questions went further back, however.
“Where is the warrant article that designated money from tax-acquired property goes into [a] land account?” she asked. “Where are you [selectmen] getting your authority that you even need a town vote to spend the money on something else?”
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Selectman Ellen Best said.
The account was set up by former Selectman Gordon Emerson, Best said. And, like money in the town’s surplus account, a town vote is needed to spend it, on a land purchase or anything else. The land account received a $425,000 boost last August when the town auctioned a Parker Lane tax-acquired property, and now holds over $750,000.
Muddying the question was a 1996 warrant article surrounding Long Island, which is not applicable, Leach said, and second-hand information Henderson related from two people not present, current selectman Jim Schatz and former selectman John Bannister.
“Can we come next week to have [this] resolved?” Henderson asked.
Her husband, Joe Henderson, nodded his head. “I think it’s is really paramount that this is [made] clear,” he said.