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CPC Presses Housing Trust For Boynton Meadows Loss Documents

by Russell Harris
 
The Community Preservation Committee reviewed the Affordable Housing Trust’s non-response to the CPC’s oral request for information and documents related to the loss of $400,000 of taxpayer money on the Boynton Meadows project.
     CPC Member Bruce Easom said, “I was completely dissatisfied with the level of cooperation and information we received from them [The Affordable Housing Trust],” adding, “I think there's more information out there if we wish to pursue it.”
     Without addressing the need for documents from the Housing Trust, member Richard Hewitt said that although it would be ‘nice’ for the CPC to conduct an investigation, he believed the Select Board should conduct any inquiry because ‘so many other town committees were involved.’ He said, ‘It was much more than just the CPC.’
     Hewitt said that in his view, ‘the big black hole in the middle of this whole thing is: who evaluates the business plan?’ He said that the CPC does not have the expertise to perform such financial analysis and that, instead, the Finance Committee should
have been involved.
     Hewitt said a qualified financial professional should be part of any future investment, adding, “I feel reasonably clear where the breakdown was, and at least in my own mind, how to address the future.”
     Member Easom disagreed with member Hewitt’s approach, saying that it's hard to know what to do in the future if ‘we don’t understand what happened in the past.’ He said, “The only lesson I have learned so far is that I wouldn't recommend funding projects that have a requirement of secrecy of the document between the town entity and the contractor.”
     Easom said that the nature of public money is openness and accountability. He added, “The fact that it appears that they [The Affordable Housing Trust] have a [financial] agreement that's not open to public scrutiny is a problem.”
     Member Tim Svarczkopf said that while he agreed with member Hewitt that the $400,000 loss also involves other boards including the Planning Board and Select Board, he said that it was still right and appropriate for the CPC to pursue documentation from the Affordable Housing Trust so the CPC could figure out how to approve future projects and prevent future problems.
     Svarczkopf added that “from the Planning Board’s perspective, the process was very opaque,” and said, “They made claims that were unsubstantiated.” He said that he felt the town had made mistakes too, and he agreed with Hewitt that further higher- level investigations were also warranted.
     At-large member Carolyn Perkins said that a ‘significant amount of taxpayer money’ was lost and that the CPC should expect a report from the Affordable Housing Trust ‘on where things went wrong.’ She said the Housing Trust “should be able to tell us in no uncertain terms how to prevent this kind of loss” in the future. By example, she said that if the Conservation Commission had lost $400,000, she would “want them to tell us what happened, and how to prevent it.’”
     Member Anna Eliot said she wanted to know who was CPC liaison on the Boynton Meadows project, how the money was disbursed, and whether it was disbursed in one lump sum or at certain time intervals.
     She said she did not want to ‘rehash the past’ but that it was important to understand what had happened “to make sure that the decisions that we make in the future are better informed.”
     CPC member Robert Degroot declined to comment when asked for his views by CPC Chair Dan Emerson.
     After the discussion, the board voted to authorize member Easom to draft a letter requesting documentation of the Boynton Meadows loss from the Affordable Housing Trust. It was agreed that Easom would then forward the letter to Chairman Dan Emerson for approval before being sent. It was further agreed that copies of the letter would be sent to the Select Board and Planning Board.
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