Friday, June 22, 2007

Where's the Money in Middletown: Letters to the Bogger

This is another letter sent to me for publication. It was originally sent to the "Newport Daily News" and not published and with no response. I did not edit except for the *Note. I do have the writer's name, but chose to not publish it.

On Monday May 21st I attended my first town council meeting as a result of my concern over an article printed in the Newport Daily News on May 17th. It regarded a memo sent by the town administrator involving the release of data requested by Councilmen Ed Silveira. Mr. Silveira spoke of freedom of information and was concerned about what the memo inferred. Most interesting to me was the information that he requested. Surprisingly enough the issue of the actual information requested was not addressed at all. Town Council president Paul Rodrigues’ response was that it was a personal attack on him, and that Mr. Silveira misconstrued the intent of the memo, but neglected to actually clarify what the intent was.

Why does Mr. Rodrigues see Mr. Silveira’s request for information regarding the GMH account, the undesignated fund balance reserve, and the personal checking account for the Middletown Senior Center a personal attack? What does that information personally have to do with him? That is money that belongs to the town. It is the taxpayer’s money. There either is or is not a balance of 700K + in the GMH account. There either is or is not an excess of 3 million dollars in the undesignated fund balance reserve. Do we not deserve to know what this money is being used for and have a say in how it is used? As for the personal checking account for the Senior Center that was not addressed at the meeting; but, if I were Mr. Rodrigues I would certainly welcome any inquiries anyone had about that topic since it is his sister who is the Executive Director of the center, and clearly puts him in a conflict of interest position regarding any decisions being made in that area. Why is our budget for the Senior Center more than 4 times that of Newport and Portsmouth? If I were Mr. Silveira I would certainly have some concerns about that also; never mind a personal checking account. If there is such an account is that money up and above what the approved budget is? Do other departments have such accounts as well? Any inquiries that may be raised regarding the use of Middletown taxpayers money - by a Councilperson or a Middletown resident – should be treated as what it is an inquiry. As taxpayers of this town we demand the right to know how our money is being spent, if it is being spent prudently and without the drama of it being labeled a “personal attack”. *Editorial note: It's upseting that the Senior Center follows few of the legalities required by the Sec. of St. regarding meetings postings & minutes' requirements. No dates are given of meetings & the contact info doesn't work. Minutes are often incomplete. This is the Dir. responsibility.)
It is very disconcerting to me that the subject of the any of those pieces of information was not addressed by any of the other town council members. To me that is the real issue here. I thought there was a glimmer of hope with I heard Councilman Sylvia say that he thought he was on another planet. He too expressed his disappointment in Mr. Silveira. Whether Mr. Silveira was right or wrong in his attempt to collect this information is not the point, bringing this information to light is. I think that the taxes we pay in this town are ridiculous. We don’t seem to be getting anything for the money that we are paying. I just recently moved from Portsmouth to Middletown. In Portsmouth I had a 2 car garage, 5 bedroom home on a ½ acre of land. We did not have to pay to use the dump, and although I realize Sandy Point is no 2nd or 3rd beach we did not have to pay for that either. When I moved to Middletown I was shocked when I received my first tax bill. The house I purchased in Middletown is a small 2 bedroom ranch with a 1 car garage on a 1/3 of an acre of land. Imagine my surprise when I opened up my tax bill and it was more than it was in Portsmouth. The town of Middletown has the most expensive taxes on the island. Why is that, and where is all the money we are collecting from the many businesses in this town going? If in fact these excess monies are available why isn’t tax relief being considered? You (the town council) were elected to make decisions on our behalf and I believe it is everyone’s expectation that you work together to resolve issues that impact how our town is managed. It’s time to put your egos and personal differences aside and start working together to ultimately do what’s best for us the taxpayers of Middletown.
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