LETTER: We don’t need Hartford-style politics in Woodbridge

To the Editor:

Tammany Hall and Woodbridge seem distant and unrelated, but when Selectman Laurence Grotheer talks about “the role and function of town government,” and “the process,” (Amity Observer, 4-22), we see the  connection.

Voters will soon decide the “role of government” in Woodbridge.  Should we continue a “process”  where commission appointments are based on party loyalty rather than merit, and decisions are based on cultivating votes, rather than the town’s best interest?  That’s the brand of politics we have in Hartford which has brought debt to record highs and ethics to record lows.  And now Grotheer is joined by  Ellen Scalletar on the ticket, who had left Woodbridge for Hartford years ago.

Keep in mind that Grotheer is a paid political press aide in Hartford. Witness his spin on the golf course. Anyone who can read numbers will see that the purchase of the Country Club  of Woodbridge has been a financial disaster. The inflated purchase price and the premium paid to the developer who bought the country club mortgage  isn’t the worst of it:

1. The 2009 closing statement includes an $887,000 charge, on top of what was paid to the developer, for which town officials will not provide back-up. The expenditure may be legitimate, but where is the written justification?  Who agreed to it?  Doesn’t the taxpayer have an absolute right to know where every penny went?

2.  The predicted golf course profits never materialized. The original manager is now embroiled in a lawsuit with the town; the  new manager predicted a 2012 profit, but instead stuck the taxpayer with a loss.  On top of the $800,000 the taxpayers have lost  since 2009 for pesticide remediation, repairs, and legal fees (it’s been a lawyer’s bonanza), lost property taxes and debt service have cost the taxpayers another $1million!

3.  Worse, the sapping of so much town money has damned the prospect of protecting any other open space in town for years. The golf course has been a money pit of gross proportions, and no press gloss can hide the failings. Mr.Grotheer, the role of government is not to gamble with the taxpayer’s money.

Why not sell it? Low interest rates support a sale. It would remain a golf course and protected open space.   We can then pay down debt,  restore the business to the tax rolls, and unburden the tax payer.  Instead, the  golf course remains a patronage tool that would make a Tammany Hall boss envious.

Honesty has to underpin any government. But Mr. Grotheer‘s claim that the  administration deserves credit for the “inception and success” of the Massaro Community Farm is dishonest. In 2008 the Massaro Farm Use Committee, set up by the Board of Selectmen to decide the use of the farm, voted to demolish the farm buildings and build a recreation complex on the prime farmland.  Wide community backlash and the hard work of the Conservation Commission, which sought and received grants to save the buildings and establish  community supported agriculture, saved the farm. The success of the farm is in spite of the Board of Selectmen, not because of it.

Lastly, Woodbridge has a Town Meeting form of government, where the people can petition for a Town Meeting to decide an issue if the people feel the Board of Selectmen acted improperly. It is a jewel of New England democracy. Not anymore. An autocratic Town Counsel (former Democratic Town Committee chairman, whose role Grotheer has assumed), denied a petition on questionable legal grounds.  Is that the government we want in Woodbridge?

Grotheer’s understanding of  the role and function of town government should be abhorrent to voters. The debased political culture in Hartford was well-described in the NH Register editorial of  March 17 (“What will the Governor, Speaker do to root out Corruption?”).  We don’t want that in Hartford, and we certainly don’t want it in Woodbridge. We need to honor the Town Meeting,  not machine politics. And that’s why it’s time for change.

James Urbano,

Woodbridge

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