Rec park a hot topic in Arlington
KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
ARLINGTON - Voters at the Arlington floor meeting passed a municipal budget of $1,237,562 with $911,485 to be raised through taxes. The number represents a 4.3 percent increase over last year.
Susan Jennings questioned the $65,694 line item for the Arlington Recreational Park. She also questioned who has control of the park’s endowment.
Board member Dan Harvey said the endowment is in hands of Arlington Park and Recreation Inc. which formed after the former park committee asked the board to take over the park. The park’s management has been a bone of contention between the park group and board. Board member Cynthia Browning said the board has not been able to establish a working relationship with the new recreation committee.
Andrew Heikaus, the committee’s former president, said people were questioning how the endowment is being spent and what would happen with the park’s equipment. Board member Reginald Jennings said the equipment’s ownership is in dispute and the board has requested the recreation committee provide documentation that it owns the equipment.
Jack Lee, the park group’s current president, said the town took over the park even after people had stepped in to run it after Heikaus and the old board stepped back. He said most of the equipment has been donated back to the park and "The money we have in the endowment will go to the park."
The discussion was spirited and Moderator John Whalen had to remind the assembly a few times to limit the talk to the budget itself and save the park discussion for later in the meeting.
Harvey said later in the meeting that the park committee was in the process of turning over complete control of the park to the board, but lacked enough votes to turn the endowment over to the town.
Jennings asked what the endowment fund is for and asked how the new park group had paid for legal fees regarding litigation between it and the board.
Lee said the endowment fund has been spent on repairs following Tropical Storm Irene. He said the park committee is now a private non-profit and the legal fees were paid for from interest generated by the fund and other sources such as private donations, but not the fund itself. He said the town can come to the park committee for grants if it wishes to have endowment money go to the park.
"We’re a grant organization now," Lee said, noting groups who wish to improve the park can apply for grants from the endowment fund. He said on Monday, March 18, at 7 p.m. the committee will meet at the Arlington Community Center, where a financial report will be released.
A resolution offered by the board that thanks the Canfield family, which donated the park’s land, and those who volunteered, worked for, or donated to the park, was passed.
Voters approved salaries for several town officers at a total of $46,426. Don Keelan made a motion to reimburse town officials for mileage at a rate equal what the state compensates its employees. It carried by a voice vote.
Don Lucas made a motion to pay the delinquent tax collector an hourly wage rather than through late fees. He said he was one day late on paying his taxes and was assessed a $350 fee, which he claimed went to the delinquent tax collector. "This ... seemed like an extremely unjust and unfair fee to me," he said.
Whalen said he was fine letting the topic be discussed but said the motion was out of order because it came under Article 2, which was about compensation not commission, from which the delinquent tax collector is paid.
Delinquent Tax Collector Linda Crosby said she does not have the latitude to determine individual hardships and assesses a fee once a bill becomes past due.
Article 4 asking of voters would allow the Select Board to borrow money in anticipation of collecting taxes was questioned by Rick Schultz who wondered if it was an "open check book policy."
Browning said the town needs to borrow to pay its bills until taxes are collected in November and it normally does so from its own sinking funds, with interest. "I would not consider it an open check book policy at all," she said. The article passed by voice vote.
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