Questions remain after Thompson BOS meeting
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Feb. 25, 2013
There was a full agenda for the Thompson Board of Selectman's meeting on Feb. 19. The Voting District Committee made its recommendations to keep the town's four voting districts intact. A preliminary 2014 budget was unveiled that reflected a 10.9 percent increase over the 2013 budget. And questions were raised about accessibility of the town's website and the recommendation to select KGCI, Inc. as contractor for a town wide photo-voltaic system project.
The Voting District Committee was formed in the fall of 2012 with the aim of streamlining the voting process as well as increasing voter participation. Voting models in Putnam (with two voting locations) and Woodstock (with one voting location) were reviewed because they presented alternatives to a four-district system and their populations were comparable, said Chair Kerstin Forrester.
She presented the VDC's recommendations to retain voting districts in Thompson Hill, North Grosvernordale, East Thompson and Quinebaug. Forrester said the committee looked at traffic control, people flow and the layout of polling places in its review. The $2,000-$3,000 savings associated with the establishment of a centralized voting location would be offset by costs incurred to pay for police or constables to manage the voting location she said. The committee's recommendation was unanimous.
First Selectman Lawrence Groh, Jr., had to fend off several complaints about a budget that would increase the mil rate by 1.157. Major changes outlined were increases due to union contract negotiations, contributions to the town's five fire departments, $61,000 to Community Ambulance to pay for a full-time EMT, public works and library wage increases, retirement contributions required by the state, and a new truck loan. The proposed budget of $7,198,470 would represent an increase of $704,911 over the 2012-13 budget.
“I'm astonished that the town would suggest a 10-percent increase,” Sally White said. “You can't continue to put this burden on taxpayers. Give people a chance to recover. Do the reasonable, logical and merciful thing and bring it way down.”
Groh said that the preliminary budget was just that. “I'm not trying to pad or sugarcoat anything,” he said.
Paul Baer asked several questions about a Solar Advisory Committee recommendation to select KGCI as contractor for a town-wide solar project. “How can the committee recommend to the town if it never had meetings?” he asked. “And how could KGCI come out number one when it scored fifth and second on scoring sheets?” Documents Baer presented to the board showed Town Planner Kevin Kennedy's score sheets for the Request for Qualification forms. There were no score sheets from any other committee members.
Baer presented documents to the board showing that KGCI was involved in litigation and that they weren't licensed to do business in the state. The address listed on KGCI's website was the same as a Holiday Inn Express in Saugus, Mass. “I'm insulted to have this happen,” Baer said.
White asked what the determining factors were in the KGCI selection. Groh said when the company made its presentation, they provided preliminary drawings of panels and indicated they would be flexible working with the town to either rent or purchase PV systems. He said the solar advisory committee will reconvene to discuss its recommendations in light of the information presented.