Burning a Hole in Their Pocket

By S.D. Plissken | May 13, 2018

The Milton Town Administrator calculated during the Joint BOS and Budget Committee meeting of Monday, December 4, 2017, that the mass assessment had caused some $1.4 million to be collected above and beyond that needed to cover the budget. According to the breakdown in the Press Release of November 13, 2017, that would be a $247,660 overage for the county and state school taxes, $403,900 overage for the Town, and $748,440 overage for the local school tax.

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) have never explained in any public setting how this came to be. (It is not apparent that they understand it themselves). Nor have they ever explained how they plan to return the overages to the taxpayers, either as refunds, tax credits, or by some other method.

Like as not, they are incapable of ever retrieving the state and county amounts totaling $247,660 that were over-collected as a result of this “process.”

Instead, they have devoted themselves to parking issues. It seems that there are rental units near the dam that lack the currently mandated two parking spaces per housing unit. The BOS have never explained whether that shortage is the result of a failure to enforce that mandate or whether those units predated the requirement. In any event, those renters without parking at their residence park instead on White Mountain Highway (the state highway), presumably to the detriment of the business owners that front that highway. Except during the winter parking ban, when they park on the state land near the dam.

Meanwhile, the purchasers of the former Ray’s Marina property have found that they too are short of parking requirements. The former owners had access to the parking spaces now occupied by the Milton Crossing strip mall (Dunkin’ Donuts/Dollar General), as well as a triangular patch on the pond side. The new owners had intended to open a restaurant, but one that also had some associated residence units. Their redevelopment process has been stalled for at least a year, reportedly over their parking shortage.

At the most recent BOS Meeting, that of Monday, May 7, 2018, item 10 on their Agenda was the Parking Plan, Design & Purchase. The Town Administrator explained that they had discussed the Parking Plan at the most recent Workshop meeting (not recorded). She reminded them that the DPW Director, Pat Smith, had arranged for them all to visit the property in question. It was 25 to 30 with “metes and bounds” or 15 to 20 without those “metes and bounds.” He “… really wants the Board to make a commitment on buying the land and moving forward with it.”

Chairman Thibeault recalled that the “… number was $400,000 with the assumption that 70% of that was ledge.” Selectwoman Hutchings recalled that it was “closer to $500,000 … not including the purchase price of the land either.”

Selectman Lucier wanted to “table” the issue until the next meeting. The Town Administrator reminded them that the DPW Director sought a commitment. Chairman Thibeault gave his opinion that he “… is all in favor of improving parking downtown, but I think this particular spot needs to be abandoned and we need to look at different options. It’s way too expensive for what we have.”

It would seem that the BOS has decided to spend public money for private purposes, i.e., parking for either private residences or businesses, or both. They drew back from this particular property as being too expensive – price plus $400,00 to $500,000 of site work – but apparently it would all have gone differently had it been cheaper.

It is likely legal for them to solve private parking problems with public money, but is it legitimate, ethical, or even politically-savvy for them to do so?

Back in April, Selectmen Lucier questioned the purchase of a tractor for the beach. He thought rightly that a purchase of that size should go before the voters. (“I don’t think the three of us [Selectmen] should make a $10,000 choice. It should be the voters or taxpayers of Milton. They’re the ones who are paying the bills”).

But that does not matter now. They have $403,900 of taxpayer money and it is burning a hole in their collective pocket.

References:

Milton Board of Selectmen. (2017, December 4). Milton BOS Meeting, December 4, 2017. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/iHs1VF2tO28?t=3269

Milton Board of Selectmen. (2018, April 2). Milton BOS Meeting, April 2, 2018. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/hOJyH7ZPHEI?t=3141

Milton Board of Selectmen. (2018, May 7). Milton BOS Meeting, May 7, 2018. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/6oeKNRKTPSw?t=4010

Milton Town Administrator. (2017, November 13). Press Release. Retrieved from http://www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/index_683_1719174841.pdf

 

 

Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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