Charlestown commissioners spar over Avalon Park expenses
bshea@ cecilwhig. com
— The town board launched into a heated discussion last week after it was learned that two commissioners authorized the creation of a roughly $ 3,000 conceptual plan for Avalon Park without consulting the rest of the board.
During last Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Joseph Letts inquired about a bill sent to the town totaling over $ 3,000 from URS Corp., the town’s engineering firm, for the creation of a conceptual plan for all of Avalon Park.
The plan was created at the request of board President Renee Capano and board Vice President Mary Carol Durange who are in the process of writing up a $ 550,000 grant to develop both sections of the park. The grant, however, requires a conceptual plan, Durange said.
But Letts, along with Commissioner Bruce Hechmer and Treasurer Andy Thompson, said they were never informed about the creation of a conceptual plan and that the board never voted to have URS create the plan.
“Obviously, we have to approve and pay the bills because we don’t want to be a deadbeat when we told them ( URS) to do the work,” Hechmer said. “But that should not have been ordered without a discussion and a majority vote.”
Letts also questioned why the conceptual plan covers the entire property. Currently, the town only has money to develop Lot B in the form of a $ 90,000 grant from the Department of Natural Resources, which town must also match with $ 10,000.
Capano clarified that the conceptual plan was discussed during an April 26 meeting and that the whole property had to be included in the plan in order to apply for the $ 550,000 grant. Durange also noted that, unlike the current grant, the new grant includes engineering fees.
But even if the grant does include engineering fees, Letts noted the town may not receive the money.
“You’ve been promised the grant, but that don’t mean you’ll get it,” Letts said. “But you’re spending money on something that we have no money for.”
Thompson agreed that for the Avalon Park project to move forward, a move had to be made. He blamed the lack of a board vote on “miscommunication.”
“We need to make sure that does not happen again,” Thompson said. “I do think we do need to make sure that whatever breakdown we had with not voting on spending the money, we address.”
He also expressed dissatisfaction with URS’s conceptual plan referring to it as a “Google map that was color- coded.” However, Thompson said the work likely wasn’t up to par because the town failed to communicate with URS about exactly what it wanted.
Thompson also said the town should have worked with the Avalon Park Development Committee to create an initial conceptual plan and a detailed statement of work before going to an outside firm. This would also prevent the board from being taken off guard by an expensive bill, he noted.
“We can’t spend money without getting a vote,” Thompson said.
The discussion ended with an agreement among the board members that moving forward they would all tr y to stay on the same page, communicate and follow procedures.
Late last week, Wib Pumpaly, town administrator, confirmed that URS was paid for its ser vice.
The conceptual plan for Avalon Park included both Lot B and the adjacent Avalon marina property, seen here.