Board reaffirms support for a town code of ethics
SALISBURY — The Board of Selectmen authorized a payment from the affordable housing Fund, backed a new waste disposal contract and reaffirmed the board’s committment to following the town’s code of ethics at the regular monthly meeting Monday, Dec. 5.New Selectman Mark Lauretano was active at his first meeting, reading three statements into the record and providing three handouts — on the old firehouse, the code of ethics and the transfer station contract.First Selectman Curtis Rand reported on the old firehouse situation, saying he didn’t know exactly what to do next. An offer from Frank Gallogly to buy the building to store a collection of vintage automobiles was withdrawn last month after the Planning and Zoning Commission declined to endorse the idea.Rand reiterated that voters at a July 2010 town meeting asked the selectmen to accept and evaluate offers to buy the old firehouse, and bring offers they considered reasonable to town meeting. The Gallogly offer was the only proposal the selectmen planned to bring to the town; however, the contract with Gallogly specified Planning & Zoning Commission approval.In his statement, Lauretano urged the board to “make sure a fair assessment is made of any proposal regarding its viability and accurate calculation of the costs involved in executing the proposal.”He also said “the town should obtain two independent appraisals of the property’s real estate value.”Members of the audience, who were allowed free rein for questions and comments during the meeting (an unusual procedure), asked if Lauretano believed the town should pay for appraisals or estimates.And Lauretano, referring back to a proposal from Mike Flint to convert the old firehouse into three affordable housing apartments, commented, “My perception is that we really haven’t taken a close look at the affordable housing aspect.” Flint’s proposal was considered by the Affordable Housing Commission and ultimately turned down as being financially impractical.Rand finished the discussion, saying, “If there are any builders out there willing to take a look, at a small expense, that would be nice. But I don’t want to spend a lot of money.”The board then turned to the code of ethics. Lauretano again passed a handout around, causing Selectman Jim Dresser to take exception.“I find this highly objectionable,” he said. “We have a folder for this meeting. This is the second time in a half hour you have trotted something out.”And Rand concurred, gently, saying “It’s probably better for substantial proposals” to submit material for the meeting ahead of time.Rand continued, “At the risk of sounding anti-code of ethics, which we’re not, we keep coming up against” the question of an enforcement mechanism.Rand said for six years he has been advocating the creation of a regional ethics committee, with members from the Northwestern Connecticut Council of Governments (COG), to hear complaints.The idea has been floating around for years, and at one point a handful of towns expressed some interest.“But it fizzled,” Rand said.Rand and Dresser both expressed their discomfort with requiring all town employees and elected officials to agree to the code of ethics the town adopted in 2005, absent an enforcement provision. “It’s not a complete code,” Dresser said.And Dresser added, “We can’t impose a code of ethics on other elected officials.” He endorsed a regional solution over a town ethics committee, saying “in a small town it is extremely difficult to avoid conflicts of interest.”“Other towns, like Newtown, have done it,” countered Lauretano. “We don’t have to follow the COG. The public deserves the best.”After some additional back and forth, the selectmen voted unanimously to reaffirm their own commitment to the 2005 code, and Rand said he had some additional information for Lauretano that might help clarify how other towns have proceeded.The selectmen voted to give Rand the authority to sign a five-year renewal deal with the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority (CRRA) for the transfer station. The town will now control recyclables and sell them.Lauretano had a statement about the CRRA contract as well, prompting a suggestion from the audience to forego reading such statements aloud in the interests of “streamlining the meeting.”And the selectmen voted to authorize the expenditure of up to $9,500 from the affordable housing fund for repairs done this fall to the small house at 25 Academy St., which is owned by the town.Dresser described the project as a collaboration between the Affordable Housing Commission, Habitat for Humanity and the Salisbury Housing Committee, which will handle the rental.One third of the rent will be paid back into the fund, to the tune of about $2,000 per year, Dresser noted.Lauretano said he agreed the expenditure was an appropriate use of the fund, but wondered how the work had been paid for. Rand said that some of the money came from the town’s building fund and some was paid by Dresser.Lauretano said he would prefer a process of obtaining estimates and making payments directly from the affordable housing fund, and Dresser said that the Affordable Housing Commission can only recommend spending to the selectmen, who then must approve it. “We’re not going to do this every time we write a check to the carpenter.”At the beginning of the meeting, Rand announced he had recently undergone prostate surgery and would be on “light duty” for the remainder of the week.