Candidate for Selectboard 2012

I’ve taken out petitions from the Town Clerk and will be collecting signatures this weekend to run for a seat on the Hartford Selectboard this winter.

Having attended most of the Selectboard meetings this year, I appreciate the amount of time and energy this position requires, and the difficult decisions that face our town now and in the foreseeable future.

I’d like to think that because I enjoy writing and type quickly I will be able to help provide the citizens of Hartford with a greater sense of the key issues and their relationships to each other. As a member of the board, I will want to see us schedule open sessions for dialog among the board and citizens earlier in the decision making process.  Today, major decisions with significant long term implications are often made without full consideration by the board in open session.

For example, the board has just concluded a series of meetings reviewing the budget prepared by Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg. The budget will be adopted on Tuesday Jan 10, and it includes — as of this writing — using $250,000 of reserves to hold down the tax rate.  This begs a number of questions. For example, why not disburse all the reserves back to the taxpayers in the form of spending it? Alternatively, why disburse any of it at all when there are longstanding projects waiting for funding in order to get started? Between these two opposite positions there is a great deal of room for the Hartford Selectboard to develop a written policy that guides the use of these funds — instead of making policy on the fly at the end of a long evening of reviewing a 2500 line spreadsheet.

For another, consider the related questions of paying for damage to town property caused by the Irene flooding on August 28, 2011. Most all of that will be expensed during the current fiscal year, which runs July 1, 2011 until June 30, 2012. The town has reserves and can use them, but no decision has been made as to how the accounting will be done. One alternative would be to total up the anticipated expenses and put everything into a bond issue — after all, the repairs to the parks, the replacement of equipment at the treatment plants, the replacement of the Quechee Covered Bridge — all these efforts will be for the long term benefit of the citizens of Hartford, and by paying for them with a bond issue, the future users, deriving the benefits, will also be the ones paying.

It strikes me that the Selectboard could have placed a general discussion about setting a policy to guide future decisions on the agenda for any of its meetings in November, and made a determined effort to get citizens to show up and provide input . Making such a decision would have greatly benefited the budget discussions, which were constantly punctuated with references to uncertainty about how Irene costs would be dealt with.

And then there is the longstanding need to rehabilitate both the ice hockey arena (WABA) and the Municipal Building. Here too, without any publicly scheduled discussion, the board has turned away from the idea of putting together bonds for these necessary actions. Instead, the current board seems satisfied to take the chance that nothing will break down in either building for another year or so.

Given the need to do all this work, there should at least be some discussion of an omnibus “Hartford Believes in the Future” bond, a bond that would cover the Municipal Building Renovation, the Barwood Arena Rehabilitation, and Hartford’s share of fixing up after Irene, including replacing the Quechee Covered Bridge. At $7.5 million, the very low cost of borrowing spread out over the next 10 years would cost about 840K annually, roughly $90 per $100,000 of assessed value. Doing it as a 20 year bond would lower the cost to 500K annually, roughly $55 per $100,000 of assessed value.

I hope to bring this kind of information to my fellow citizens and help our self-governing discussions take place earlier, and more fully, with explicit adoption of written policy directives.

So — what do you think about the idea of an omnibus bond?

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