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Academy Street upgrades discussed, debated by BOS

SALISBURY — Selectmen Jim Dresser and Mark Lauretano engaged in a dispute Jan. 5 at the first board meeting of 2012 over the process by which a small, town-owned house at 25 Academy St. underwent $9,500 worth of improvements.Lauretano said he had requested emails and any other communications regarding the project, and complained that Dresser, who was centrally involved and paid for some materials out of his own pocket, had not responded. Lauretano said by not providing the emails, which he described as “public documents,” Dresser had “obstructed the public’s right to know.”Lauretano also criticized Dresser for reporting to the selectmen that a management agreement with the Salisbury Housing Committee (which oversees Sarum Village and Faith House) to handle 25 Academy St. was in place. He said that he asked the Salisbury Housing Committee at their December meeting if there was a written agreement and the answer was “no.”Lauretano said Dresser had “misled” the Board of Selectmen on the question of a management agreement.Dresser replied he had responded “promptly” to a recent letter from Lauretano, who then interrupted.“Stop right there, Jim.” He went on to say he had requested the emails in mid-December.Some wrangling ensued, with Dresser finally saying, “I’ll do it when I get around to it. It’s not that important to me.” He then took issue with Lauretano’s assertion he had “misled” the board. Dresser said that he met at the Academy Street house with two members of the Salisbury Housing Committee to look at the improvements, set a rent and agree on the split, with two thirds going to the housing group and one third to the town, to pay for the improvements.Dresser said that the town’s comptroller, Joe Cleaveland, asked for a written memo of understanding and that a draft was composed and is awaiting review from the Salisbury Housing Committee’s attorney.This didn’t satisfy Lauretano, who continued to raise questions and concerns until First Selectman Curtis Rand stepped in.Rand pointed out that the housing committee has been managing the rental of 25 Academy St. since the town bought it.Dresser then accused Lauretano of “splitting hairs” and said an oral agreement existed. Lauretano said a written agreement should have been in place before the improvements were made.As to the emails, Dresser said they concerned materials. “You’ll find nothing interesting in the emails.”He added, “You are being incredibly bureaucratic.”In more routine matters, the board agreed to spend $19,000 to have the BETA Group, a consulting firm, perform an engineering study of Academy Street with an eye toward improving sidewalks, curbing and parking. The cost will be covered by a state grant. (Rand abstained from the vote because he owns a building in the affected area.)“In theory we could have it fixed up by Memorial Day,” he said.

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