In 2017, Charlestown defended itself against the Federal Railroad Administration, which planned to bisect our town with a new high-speed track through homes, conservation land, and historic villages. We won that fight largely with hard work and bluster, but we came very close to having to fight the battle in federal court under the National Environmental Protection Act. That would have required hiring a Washington law firm to work with Charlestown — and that requires money.
Money for that kind of fight would come from Charlestown’s Legal Defense Fund — a fund that the proposed budget would fortify with $125,000 from the surplus account. Opponents of the budget have criticized putting those funds in the Legal Defense Fund and they want to pull the money back into the surplus fund to save for an unknown future project.
Besides the railroad, we’ve recently stopped the trucking of our groundwater to cool Invenergy’s power plant, and the construction of a Dollar General that would have displaced local small businesses. All of these left town without a major legal challenge, but we may not always win so easily.
If the Legal Defense Fund is unneeded, the money stays in there unspent, costing the taxpayers nothing. Its purpose would be clear. Mingling the money in the surplus account won’t lower the tax rate, but it will lock up those funds where they can’t be accessed at the critical time they are needed.
Even if it did lower taxes, what would be the goal of making Charlestown weak in defending against big developers? The big developers of course want to see this money removed from the budget, but why would we?
I hope you will return your Charlestown budget referendum mail ballot with a “Yes.”
The writer is chairwoman of the Charlestown Planning Commission.