SHIRLEY -- Former town official, WWII Veteran and longtime American Legion Post #183 member Norman Albert has been an outspoken advocate for his fellow veterans in town. Last week, he asked the selectmen to help pay an overdue heating bill for the War Memorial Building, where the Legion hall is located. He did so again Monday night.
Recently, the War Memorial Building Trustees asked the town for $7,000 to pay fuel costs for the building this year. Trustee Theresa Richards, however, told the board at a previous meeting that the figure was only an estimate and might not be that high.
The Legion, for its part, has said that maintaining the town-owned building has become a burden they can't afford to shoulder alone anymore. The Legion is the only occupant of the building, but as Albert pointed out to the selectmen, it is also used for town events.
But in his view, the issue goes beyond that. "My main concern is the condition of the War Memorial Building," which stands as a monument to the town's military veterans, he said.
The selectmen said they were concerned that the Anti Aid amendment in state law might prohibit the town from helping a private organization pay its bill with taxpayer money. Last week, they were waiting for a legal opinion from Town Counsel on the matter.--This week, they had his read in hand. Basically, he opined that there's a limited amount of money the town can spend on the building, offset, perhaps, by American Legion revenue for its rental. The amount is less than the Trustees asked for and Albert - who said he was speaking as a citizen and a veteran and not representing the legion, the trustees or other veterans - clearly was not satisfied.
"I'm just a simple person, but when a bolt doesn't (fit) the nut" it's supposed to match, then there's a problem, he said. "I don't know how to resolve this, the American Legion isn't the only one using the building."
For example, the Boy Scouts and other organizations hold ceremonies and other events there. The Legion Auxiliary and the Trustees use it to host events, such as holiday parties and collations on patriotic national holidays.
"I feel the letter the selectmen sent to counsel was incomplete," and didn't contain all the pertinent information he needed to see the big picture, Albert said.
He asked the board's permission to speak to Town Counsel Gary Brackett before Annual Town Meeting, rather than bring the matter up on the floor.
The selectmen agreed. "I think that's a fair and reasonable request," Chairman David Swain said.