Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A sucker born...Especially in Amherst!

So of course Amherst Town Meeting, mimicking the spending habits of a drunken sailor, purchased the property on Main Street—two lots that suddenly went from $400,000 down to $270,000 when the professional appraisal (as opposed to the worried-about-his-job town assessor) came back this morning.

And if you look at the “historic” landscape now, it resembles something out of the ‘Wizard of Oz’--only the tornado deposited three tired old houses instead of just one.

Naturally Mr. Moderator (a highly-paid Amherst College employee, the same entity that donated two of the houses and paid the over $110-K moving costs to dump them on Main Street) dictated the deal only required a simple majority vote instead of the two-thirds vote that is REQUIRED anytime borrowing is involved.

And the suddenly revised motion clearly stated “appropriate $270,000 for the acquisition of said land, and to meet such appropriation, appropriate and transfer $81,000 from the Community Preservation Fund annual estimated revenues, with the additional $189,000 to be borrowed in anticipation of receipt of a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

But even if the state comes through with a grant of $189,000 (that could take a year or more) and we “borrow” that amount in “anticipation” of the money eventually arriving, is that not still “borrowing”? If so, tonight’s vote required a two-thirds majority.

If I borrow ten bucks from you today and give you a post-dated check (and you assume I am a premiere businessman in operation for over 26 years and would not risk image damage by bouncing a $10 check), is that not still "borrowing"?

The Dog-and-Pony Show was pretty hilarious: they even Photoshopped in a ramshackle house painted purple to illustrate what could happen if we did not buy this property right now (“This special offer ends tonight. Call now with your credit card in hand as operators are standing by!”)

And they were sooooo cocky they did not even bother to have a Standing Vote or (written) Tally Vote, almost always required for borrowing (unless the voice vote is unanimous).

Yeah, I used “Point of Order!” to ask if the Town Attorney vetted this simply majority vote concept and was told “yes”. But then, this is the same Town Attorney who says it’s okay for Awad and Hubley to live in South Hadley and remain on as Amherst Town officials.



Anonymous said...

i think you need to check in to that...i, too, thought that was odd that we were appropriating money with a simple majority.

Anonymous said...

i think you need to check in to that...i, too, thought that was odd that we were appropriating money with a simple majority.

Mark said...

So much for the comprehensive plan and "smart growth". This is where infill development should happen.

PS I think you are being unfair to drunken sailors - they are spending their own money.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah you’re right, a drunken sailor is still a trained professional with youthful reflexes that even when compromised by beer, are still way better than a 70-year-old barely able to walk.

And I would much rather take my chances with an inebriated swabby rather than a clueless, starry-eyed sober amateur who, unfortunately, predominates at Amherst Town Meeting.

As Winston Churchill said to the waitress who gave him guff: "I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly."

Mary E.Carey said...

Hmmm. Winston Churchill wasn't so goodlooking himself, and as someone who's going to be 70 in less than 20 years I'd like to think you're being unfair to 70 year olds.

LarryK4 said...

Well…you and I (and my exceedingly awesome wife) are part of the Baby Boomer Generation who take exercise a tad more seriously.

Mr. Churchill and the current crop of Amherst Town Meeting members are from that other--bacon, eggs, and cream—generation.

Jonathan said...

Incurring indebtedness under M.G.L. Ch. 44, Sec. 7 (which covers most municipal borrowing) requires a two-thirds vote. Borrowing in anticipation of reimbursement from the Commonwealth is separately regulated under Ch. 44, Sec. 6a, and does not require a two-thirds vote. You can't do this unless you've already been allotted a grant, so the money doesn't get borrowed until the grant comes through. The authorization of the borrowing is in anticipation of the receipt of the grant, not the borrowing itself. The money doesn't get borrowed unless the grant comes through.

- Jonathan

LarryK4 said...

Well gee, that’s about as clear as Mudd.

So have we already been “allotted” the State Grant? If so, when did we apply? Did the Select board discuss it in an Open Meeting?

The state could announce tomorrow that we have been “allotted” the grant but it could still take a year to 18 months for the check to actually hit the town treasury (as it did 20 years ago with the Cherry Hill Golf Course fiasco). Thus we “borrow” $189,000 over that time period at 3 or 4% interest (and the state does not reimburse us for that.)

But the developers are happy as they get their cash almost immediately. Not to mention no longer paying property taxes on the two lots ($3,500) plus increasing the value of the other 4 homes on the site because those two lots will stay forever open.

If the loan rate is more than the interest rate we get on the almost $3 million we have sitting in a Free Cash reserve account, then why the Hell did we not appropriate the money from Free Cash? That most definitely only requires a simple majority vote.

LarryK4 said...

And of course, it helps that the director of the state program, Jennifer Soper,just happens to live in Amherst.

Conflict of interest perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Larry, put up or shut up.

File the ethics complaint(s), file a lawsuit against the town, JUST DO IT.

Or don't, and shut up.

The time to act is now....

LarryK4 said...

Hmm…spoken like a true Anon.

So what issue exactly are you talking about? A ten-taxpayer lawsuit against the town for illegally appropriating money to purchase land on Main Street deeming it only required a majority vote of Town Meeting when Mass Law clearly (Ch 40 Sect 14) clearly states otherwise:

"Section 14. The aldermen of any city, except Boston, or the selectmen of a town may purchase, or take by eminent domain under chapter seventy-nine, any land, easement or right therein within the city or town not already appropriated to public use, for any municipal purpose for which the purchase or taking of land, easement or right therein is not otherwise authorized or directed by statute; but no land, easement or right therein shall be taken or purchased under this section unless the taking or purchase thereof has previously been authorized by the city council or by vote of the town, nor until an appropriation of money, to be raised by loan or otherwise, has been made for the purpose by a two thirds vote of the city council or by a two thirds vote of the town, and no lot of land shall be purchased for any municipal purpose by any city subject to this section for a price more than twenty-five per cent in excess of its average assessed valuation during the previous three years."

Or the residency thing with what’s her name and what’s his name? I actually heard from the Attorney General today on that. Tune in tomorrow.

But yeah, in both cases, I will act. And I have plenty of time (well… actually my plane to China leaves in two weeks--but for me--that is plenty of time.)

Anonymous said...

You were pretty venomous in your speech but failed to convince your fellow town meeting members. I agree with some of your positions on other issues regarding silly Amherst decisions, but you are way off base here.

I have spent some time (a lot more time than two bicycle rides) looking at the view that would be preserved from Main Street, and once the site work is finished, it will be pretty good, not perfect, but still good. Once the tree line that separates the two Hill's mansions is thinned a bit more, the view to both mansions will improve dramatically, especially from Main Street.

The older houses moved to the site are not as tired as you described. The Ward-Chapin house renovations are almost complete, and it is a handsome addition to the street. The three houses in general, when completely renovated, will look as though they had been there for years.

As for tax revenue, the Boy's Club paid no tax for years. Now the town will receive tax from four relatively pricey properties.

What are we as a community if we do not mark our time here with something positive and productive. Hills Park is such an endeavor and if it works out, a relative bargain. It also honors Henry and Leonard Hills and the Dickinsons. They represent benevolence that may no longer exist in Amherst.

Do you really think Harrison Greg was representing Amherst College's interests? Now that is just silly and diminishes the validity of your other arguments.

As far as acting, don't bother. . . most people in town want to see this happen, and you have more productive things to do.

LarryK4 said...

Well at least now I know what issue concerns you the most.

My main concern (as someone with historical roots far deeper than yours) is the process was perverted. Deliberately gerrymandered.

The ends do not justify the means.

Anonymous said...

I think that you have me confused with one of the other anonymous posters.

In any event I do not think there was any gerrymandering going on here. Your focus on the technicalities of the process may have clouded your vision of what is best for the town and its residents.

What is your ultimate goal here? What do you hope to accomplish? There are other more important issues in town that could use your energy and tenacity.

You know nothing of my historical roots. That was hitting below the belt and was based on an analysis of a few short paragraphs. It makes no sense.

In spite of your insult, thanks for having this blog. It is entertaining and does provide another forum for discussion and venting. Amherst provides plenty of fodder for both.

Max Hartshorne said...

Reading this blog makes me happy that I live in Deerfield. We preserve land here too, and even voted to raise our taxes by approving our own Community Preservation act, but we don't attack each other so much.

LarryK4 said...

Okay new rules for all you Anon’s. You have to come up with some sort of cute handle/name so I can tell you apart.

I only mention historical roots because I grew up on High Street just one street over to the east. And directly to the south about 100 yards away is Kelley Square (as it is still know on the assessors map) although it is currently overgrown and unused.

My great, great grandfather Tom Kelley, who carried Miss Emily to her grave, purchased the property from Miss Emily’s dad. Tom’s picture hangs in the Dickinson Homestead today.

That why I got a kick out of Mr. Wald saying to Town Meeting that although the property is not contiguous with the Dickinson Homestead it’s close enough so that Miss Emily may have taken walks over it. Of course anyone who knows Miss Emily knows she never went for walks.

My ultimate goal is to ensure the town does the right thing. And yes, process is important.