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Friday, June 15, 2012

Where’s the MONEY???

The Charlestown Land Trust was supposed to raise $368,000 for the Y-Gate deal… Then, they pledged to raise $100,000…So show us the money!
By Will Collette

A Progressive Charlestown reader e-mailed me about Charlestown’s Y-Gate Scandal. He noted that the Charlestown Land Trust had made various pledges to raise private funds for the deal and asked if there has ever been a final tally or accounting of how much the Trust actually raised.

This reader noted that under the current scheme, being heavily pushed by CCA Town Council President Boss Tom Gentz, town taxpayers would pay $398,000 and state taxpayers would pay $367,000 to the Charlestown Land Trust for a worthless conservation easement. That’s a total of $765,000. And that's not counting any of the private money the Land Trust had pledged to kick in.

From that, the Charlestown Land Trust would pay the Westerly YMCA their new, reduced price of $600,000 for the abandoned 27.5 campground on Watchaug Pond, leaving $165,000 extra and unaccounted for.

But, the Charlestown Land Trust had also pledged to raise at least $100,000 in private funds when it requested the town put up $498,000 last February.

When the Charlestown Land Trust filed its grant application with RIDEM last year, they promised to raise all of the $368,000 in local matching funds from “donations from neighbors [presumably the Sonquipaug Association], interested members of the public [presumably the CCA] and revenues earned through fundraising events and activities [such as the “A Room Full of Blues” concert at the Knickerbocker Café].

From the Charlestown Land Trust's proposal to RIDEM - how they said the project would be funded.
NO TOWN MONEY - only the state grant and private donations. Time for the Land Trust to tell the truth!
Of course, when the Charlestown Town Council presented themselves as willing chumps, the CLT changed their minds at raising the entire $368,000 in matching funds from private sources, dropping their fund-raising pledge down to $100,000.

But where’s that $100,000? Where is the budget for how the CLT plans to use the funds over and above the town and state tax dollars it expects to receive?

Where is the long-promised but never published land management plan for the Y Camp site?

RIDEM based its $367,000 grant award – yet to be paid until the CLT can produce an honest appraisal – on funding 50% of an acquisition cost of $735,000. But now that acquisition cost is $600,000. Has RIDEM been notified that their share is now less than $300,000?

By the way, the Y-Gate gang has been manipulating the numbers from the very beginning. At the same time they told RIDEM in their grant application that the total acquisition cost was $735,000, their ad hoc land group was telling the Town Council the total acquisition cost was $946,000. If they had put $946,000 in the RIDEM grant application, it would have been rejected. They played with the numbers to present a figure just under the maximum allowed by RIDEM.

The cost to Charlestown taxpayers started as ZERO as presented in the RIDEM proposal.

Then it went up to $430,000 in the ad hoc group’s proposal.

Then it became $475,000 when the Y-Gate deal was approved by a 3-1 vote in the February Town Council meeting as a payment from the town’s $2 million Open Space/ Recreation bond.

That same $475,000 morphed into a Budget Commission recommendation we pay the money out of the town’s excess surplus to avoid interest charges. Unfortunately for the Y-Gate conspirators, the Budget Commission’s recommendation required new voter approval.

Now the new number is $398,000.

If Boss Gentz gets his way, that 398,000it will come out of the Open Space/Recreation Bond, without a taxpayer vote.

So much for open, transparent and accountable government, an issue Boss Gentz will have to answer should he be so arrogant as to seek re-election.

At various times, the Land Trust listed add-on costs for demolition, clean-up legal fees, etc.  When they conned the Town Council out of $475,000, they pegged such costs at around $100,000.

However, they gave RIDEM (see above) a figure of around $64,000 in extras.

It's been quite a while since they've talked about what they were going to do with the money they get, above and beyond the YMCA's purchase price. Since, with Boss Gentz's help, they expect to get their big Pay Day on June 25, isn't it time for a full detailing of what the Charlestown Land Trust will do with all the extra money they stand to collect?

Where's Deputy Dan when we need him?
And on top of that, there is that unanswered question: where is the Charlestown Land Trust’s share of the costs? Not only do we not know how much they raised, it looks like they will turn a hefty profit - $165,000 in surplus taxpayer money above and beyond what they need to pay the Westerly YMCA for the land. Not counting the private money they've raised.

Before Gentz puts a majority vote together to give away your money, we should be able to see:
  1. A complete accounting from the Charlestown Land Trust on all the private money they have collected for Y-Gate and how much of that they actually intend to use for that purpose
  2. A real plan for what they intend to do with the extra money they will have after paying the Westerly YMCA
  3. The management plan for how they intend to run the Y-Gate land, should the Town Council be so foolish as to hand them our money.
 The message for Charlestown Land Trust Treasurer Russ Ricci is this: SHOW US THE MONEY.