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Sunday, May 6, 2012

So whose idea was this?

Who proposed spending $475,000 out of Charlestown's budget surplus for the Y Camp?
By Will Collette

People who follow Charlestown politics know that we have a lot of very fiscally conservative people inside and out of town government. It's one reason our taxes are so low, but also why we have so few town services as well as somewhat austere town facilities.

It seems like the most conservative of the fiscal conservatives gravitate toward the town's Budget Commission, where they can put their views into town policy through the way we spend and raise our money.

So the proposal by Budget Commission chair Richard Sartor that Charlestown spend $475,000 from the town surplus to buy a worthless easement on the overpriced, abandoned Y camp came as a big surprise. After all, one of the roles the Budget Commission plays is to bring their brand of conservative financial reality to the picture. If, for instance, the Town Council had decided to use Open Space/Recreation Bond funds to buy a crack house or a meth lab, I would expect the Budget Commission to tell them, errrr, no.

It is not the Budget Commission's job to facilitate irresponsible decisions by finding interest-free alternative financing arrangements. Unless I missed something in the Town Charter.

So how did the Budget Commission come up with this idea – an idea I am hoping will be thoroughly trashed at Monday night's Budget public hearing (that's 7 PM, Monday, May 7 at Town Hall)?

Who made the motion? Was it a hotly debated, sharply divided decision? What was the final vote?

As surprising as it was to see Richard Sartor make the pitch before the Town Council, it was even more surprising to see that it was Richard Hosp who made the motion to finance Y-Gate from petty cash.

Richard Hosp is a former CCA member and served on the Town Council as a CCA-endorsed member from 2008 until 2010, when he was "excommunicated" from the CCA for supporting wind energy.

Richard Hosp is famous as one of the most stalwart town fiscal conservatives, with a particular focus on guarding the fund surplus. From his frequent remarks about preserving the fund balance during his term as a Council member, it seemed as if Hosp would rather give up a sensitive body part than tap the fund balance.

And that he certainly would not want to tap the fund balance for something so controversial as Y-Gate.

But here it is:

While the minutes do not call it "Y-Gate" (that would be a little too much to ask), this is the motion that sent Budget Commission chair Sartor to the Council with his big surprise.

The five members who voted for this are Hosp, of course, and Sartor, Henry Heminway, David Bailey and Linda Philips.

Here are the complete minutes from that meeting: