To the Editor:
The Board of Finance (BOF) met on March 2nd and denied a capital expenditure of $249,000 for the sidewalk project proposed by the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission. This decision followed a discussion with Justin Giorlando (town land use consultant) regarding the details of this project.
Within 48 hours, at the March 4th Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting, two members of Planning & Zoning (Ross Ogden and Ray Martin) requested that the BOS revisit the sidewalk project, based on the premise that a thorough review of the proposal was not undertaken by the BOF. In other words, these P&Z members were suggesting that the BOF didn’t do its homework. No mention was made of the town wide Charrette informing citizens about this project.
The Board of Finance certainly knows more about town finances than the Planning and Zoning Commission. The BOF recognized that there are essential, major capital expenses that demand immediate financial investment, such as 2 bridge repairs (which are time sensitive for grant funding) and the HKMS roof. The BOF is to be commended for recognizing that during this highly stressful pandemic period, our community’s financial commitments have limits.
As the Executive branch of our local government, it is not in the BOS’s purview to address fiduciary matters. The legal authority to govern town finances rests with the BOF. The BOS, at the urging of P&Z, chose to undercut the work of the BOF and readdress funding for the sidewalk project via an advisory question on the upcoming referendum. This poses the question of whether or not citizens want sidewalks outside the context of our town’s overall financial health. We vote on our overall budget, but we elect the BOF to weigh what we need against what we want and determine what is best for the town. This is a seriously irresponsible move on the part of both the BOS and P&Z. They have ignited a battle among powerful town boards — the BOS, BOF and P&Z, undermined the BOF, and set a dangerous precedent in pitting town boards against each other.
We are disappointed with First Selectman Bindelglass, in concert with Selectman Robert Lessler, (Easton’s current democratic leadership) in their acquiescing to P&Z’s attempt to nullify a decision made by the BOF. It calls into question their leadership, their support and respect for other boards, and their understanding of our governance process. It is critical to the town’s stability that each board’s role is respected, that their decisions are honored, and that proper process and protocol are followed.
Sherry L. Harris