TOWNSEND -- Capital Planning Committee Chairwoman Lorna Fredd announced her resignation Thursday night following a long-running dispute with selectmen and the town administrator over the role of the committee.
"It just feels like the relationship between the Board of Selectmen and the town administrator and the Capital Planning Committee has become toxic and it's just very difficult to achieve positive results, have meaningful discussions and come to consensus," Fredd said.
Fredd has served on the committee for four years. Her term was set to expire in June. She had originally intended to wait until after the May 6 Town Meeting to resign, but said after Thursday night's meeting that she believed there was nothing more she could accomplish by participating on the committee.
Her announcement came after a debate over a new funding method for capital projects which some committee members said overrode their authority.
Under the new method, the town would borrow $883,785 this year to fund capital projects. Traditionally, the town spends $200,000 each year to address the town's capital needs.
Fredd and committee member Carolyn Smart raised concerns that under the new plan, projects for fiscal year 2016 that had not yet been reviewed and prioritized by the committee, would be funded.
While the committee includes upcoming projects that have been requested by department heads on its five-year plan each year, Fredd said only the upcoming year's projects are rated and recommended.
"It has not been discussed, it has not been analyzed, it has not been prioritized," Fredd said of the FY16 items.
Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said that borrowing would allow the town to fund many more capital projects up front than would usually be possible.
"I'm trying to fund capital projects. If the committee doesn't want to fund capital projects and you want to throw up procedural barricades, that's fine, but I'm trying to do what I can to move the town forward," Sheehan said.
Committee members also debated a proposed bylaw change that would allow selectmen to add items to the capital plan based on "compelling need." Under the current bylaw, selectmen can only add emergency items.
The change was proposed by Colin McNabb, a member of both the Capital Planning Committee and the Board of Selectmen, after a Capital Planning Committee vote against adding an $11.3 million fire station to the capital plan prevented the project from going before voters at last November's Special Town Meeting.
"In my opinion, members of this committee disenfranchised the voters of this town, and I think that is wrong," McNabb said.
Fredd said that the bylaw change would essentially make the work of the Capital Planning Committee meaningless.
"In my humble opinion, the addition of compelling need just adds subjectivity to the capital-planning process," Fredd said. "What this does is nullifies the committee and leaves everything up to the Board of Selectmen and the town administrator."
Smart said that selectmen should have discussed the bylaw with other departments and committees before sending it to Town Meeting.
"You don't make major changes in your law without talking to people, or at least I don't feel you do," Smart said.
Smart also said that she had asked McNabb a month before the last Special Town Meeting if the capital planning vote would negatively affect the Special Town Meeting vote, and was told that it did not matter.
At a selectmen's meeting the night of Special Town Meeting, Sheehan said that town counsel had said the vote could not legally go forward because the project was not on the town's capital plan.
The bylaw change will go before voters on May 6 at Annual Town Meeting.
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