Board agrees to pay Palmer for work on King Hill Road
SHARON — At a Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Oct. 11, a motion was passed to pay Palmer Construction of Sharon more than $35,000 for work that owner Florien Palmer did in conjunction with town road crews on King Hill Road. In a separate contract between Sharon Hospital and Palmer, the company was paid $40,000 by the hospital. The town of Sharon was not a party to that contract. A controversy arose when the town was required to do work in conjunction with the trench Palmer was installing as part of the hospital contract.In statements made over the course of several Board of Selectmen’s meetings, First Selectman Robert Loucks claimed Palmer was double billing the town for this work.Palmer attended the Oct. 11 meeting with Attorney William Manasse. Selectmen Meg Szalewicz and John Mathews disputed Loucks’ claim that Palmer had double billed the town. Mathews said Loucks met with Palmer himself and engaged him to complete the work — without signing a contract.There was heated discussion among the selectmen. A point raised several times was that Palmer Construction had a contract with Sharon Hospital, but there was no written contract between Palmer and the town. Loucks, it was said, had asked Palmer Construction to help out with the project on parts for which the town was responsible.Sharon resident Harry Hall read aloud a letter he had written to the selectmen stressing, among other things, the need for transparency in handling projects the town is paying for. Although it can be slower and more unwieldy, he said, there should always be proper contracts and the advice of outside experts should always be sought before agreeing to spend taxpayer money.Mathews made a motion that Palmer be paid the $35,660.30 he said he is owed. Szalewicz and Mathews voted in favor of the motion, Loucks voted against it.Mathews then presented a motion that the Board of Selectmen issue a retraction to Palmer regarding comments made at the previous meeting, where he had been accused of double billing the town. He also moved that the selectmen apologize to the contractor. The motion was amended so that the wording of the retraction could be referred to the town attorney. The motion was passed, with Szalewicz and Mathews voting for the motion, Loucks against.In a separate, but related issue, Paul Rooney reminded Szalewicz about his request to her at the September meeting for information pertaining to work done at her residence by Palmer Construction. Szalewicz responded she had obtained an opinion from the town attorney that such documents are not public record under the Freedom of Information laws and it was up to her whether or not she wanted to release them. Szalewicz told Rooney she chose not to discuss this any further and will not provide the records he had requested.Ann Saunders said she watched the Channel 6 public access tape of the September selectmen’s meeting. She expressed her opinion that what Rooney was asking for was irrelevant, and she said Szalewicz should be apologized to as well. Szalewicz commented that the last two selectmen’s meetings were very uncomfortable and she hoped that the board has learned a lesson that contracts are of the utmost importance.