It is an undeniable fact that history is unkind to those who fail to learn its lessons. In light of that, it is instructive to recall the past promises and betrayals made to the town by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) before the taxpayers and voters go to the polls to vote on the town’s budget on June 3.
One of the CCA’s first betrayals was how it supported the unauthorized and illegal $500,000 overexpenditure for the construction of the new police station in 2005. The illegal overexpenditure led to the sudden resignation of then Town Administrator Richard Sartor and prompted the 2006-08 Town Council to call for a state police investigation. Mr. Sartor, who is now chairman of the town’s Budget Commission, has orchestrated the current $3 million deal to construct a community center that the town doesn’t need. Only the CCA and Richard Sartor would have the audacity to ask the taxpayers and voters of Charlestown to approve a $3 million appropriation without presenting anything, not even a penciled sketch, of what the alleged community center will look like.
Then came its vigorous and outrageous public support for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s (RIDEM) mandate to install the controversial denitrification onsite wastewater management systems along the coastal zones of Charlestown. The 2006–08 Town Council vigorously opposed RIDEM’s mandate because it had secured other scientific evidence that questioned the effectiveness of the systems. RIDEM prevailed and from 2008 to 2019 approximately 701 denitrification systems have been installed in Charlestown. The median cost of each system is approximately $22,500.00. This means that the collective out-of-pocket expense to Charlestown’s homeowners who were forced to install them has been approximately $15,772,500.00. (I don’t want anyone to misread the numbers so let me qualify it: It’s millions of dollars!)
Now here comes RIDEM with a Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant valued at about $750,000. The funding from this grant has gone to hire graduate students from the University of Rhode Island to study whether the denitrification systems are all working as they were designed to work.
REALLY!?! It took all these so called “experts” 11 years to realize what the real experts knew in 2008: that the denitrification systems were not quite ready to do the job that they were designed to do.
The homeowners who have spent the $15 million can thank the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) and the Salt Pond Coalition for the local cover-up of this fiasco. The public records show that the 2006–08 Town Council presented incontrovertible evidence that there were problems with the denitrification systems but it was shouted down by the CCA and its supporters.
Moreover, here’s another example of an idiotic idea brought forth by the CCA that ended up being a broken promise. It involves the new bicycle track at Ninigret Park that the town didn’t need. The CCA and its minions promised that it was going to cost approximately $7,000 to construct the new bicycle track. It ended up costing the taxpayers approximately $300,000. Notwithstanding the fact that there was already a Centurion Bicycle Track at Ninigret Park, now the town has a second bike track at the park that no one uses.
The CCA-controlled Town Council now has the audacity to ask the taxpayers and voters to approve a budget that includes a $3 million appropriation for a community center that the town doesn’t need. Its audacity is compounded only by its arrogance. They want more then $3 million without presenting the taxpayers with any site plans, construction plans or estimated costs.
Trust us, just give us $3 million and we’ll spend it as we choose!
They obviously believe that the people of Charlestown are fools. It’s important to know that under state law, the taxpayers and voters at the Financial Town Referendum can vote to approve an appropriation but they cannot tell the Town Council how to spend the money. The Town Council may promise to build a community center, but we should not trust it to do that. It can spend the money on anything it wants to.
Remember, the history of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) leaves a heck of a lot to be desired!
Therefore, it is extremely important for the taxpayers and voters of Charlestown to go to the polls on June 3 and vote to reject the entire town budget.
Rejecting the town’s budget will not set a precedent. It’s been done in the past and it will send a clear message to the CCA that it is through pulling the wool over the people’s eyes.
James M. Mageau