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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Charlestown voters approve town budget 59% to 41%

Only 204 people vote
By Will Collette

Charlestown’s operational budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1 was approved yesterday by 120 versus 84 no votes. As a result of this vote, property taxes will increase by almost 3%.

Turn-out, to put it mildly, was light. When I cast my vote at 2:30, I was voter #101.

By contrast, last year’s budget vote drew almost three times as many voters – 576 – largely because there was a hot issue on the ballot. That was the question of whether to approve the bonding to build the two new beach sanitary facilities that are now ready to serve beach goers at the two town beaches.

As you may recall, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) opposed construction of decent beach toilets. Many of their supporters felt they weren’t needed because they could simply use their own toilets at their beachfront homes and felt no need to serve the needs of outsiders or residents beyond walking distance of the beach.

But Charlestown Democrats and supporters of family recreation in Charlestown organized turn-out in support of the beach project, and defeated the CCA by 11%.

Without a controversial issue on this year’s budget ballot, voters felt little motivation to trek to town hall in the rain. But it was a close call.

We almost had a budget item on the ballot that might have boosted turn-out greatly.

The Budget Commission’s proposal to pay $475,000 out of the town surplus to fund the Y-Gate Scandal – i.e. the payment of $475,000 for a worthless conservation easement from the Charlestown Land Trust so they could pay $730,000 in town and state funds to the Westerly YMCA for the abandoned campground on Watchaug Pond for the benefit of the non-resident vacation home owners in the Sonquipaug neighborhood – almost made it to the ballot.

If Charlestown voters had been given the chance to vote on Y-Gate, I believe more than 1000 voters would have turned out to give Y-Gate and its supporters the spanking they deserve.

As it is, the Y-Gate deal is suspended in limbo, lurking and waiting for the next opportunity to emerge as a drain on town taxpayers.