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Oxford Board of Finance Member Disagrees With High School Field Proposal

Richard Burke submits letter to the editor about his thoughts regarding the $3.1 million proposed fields project.

To Oxford taxpayers,

Even though I believe a would be nice addition for our community, I would rather endorse a project of this magnitude based on proper analysis of where Oxford is heading. Before being forced to cast my vote, I would have preferred to first see a forecast of where our mil rate can potentially go if not properly controlled. I try to be planning oriented as much as possible, and I’m very conscious/concerned about the long list of projects on the expense side of our plate, while at the same time - the “good” growth in our grand list has slowed tremendously. At the same time, we’re debating how to deal with the affordable housing, an issue that can potentially add enormous expense. Also at the same time, we’re in the midst of a very fragile state, federal, and world economy.

Look at our budget that just passed. With nothing much more than a normal increase in our regular annual operating budget, we have close to a one mil increase. Now start adding to that from our list of high-priced capital expenditures over the next five years; without some good revenue, we end up with a mill rate that may actually be a detractor for that good business and 55+ revenue that we want to attract. Once we enter that mode, it’ll be tough to recover, and five-digit annual tax bills will become the norm for average Oxford households. 

As for this specific project, we’re rushing into it a little too fast for Mr Burke.  I saw this coming, and it played a big part in why I wouldn’t support Mr. Temple during his campaign. This isn’t about planning and prioritizing the right way; it’s simply about rushing to build a football field as quick as possible.

Our Charter should be discarded in this case.  Plain and simple, for $3.1 million, this should go to referendum.  For this amount of money, it should not be decided by a stacked audience with a single agenda.   It should go to referendum as part of the November election, such that we won’t spend extra money and voters will be coming out anyway.   Thus, the 15 percent rule won’t be an issue, and it will allow all of us time to absorb the details, rather than rushing into a costly premature mistake.  

Lastly, if we take this approach, it will also provide our Board of Selectmen with additional time to fully grasp and give overdue consideration to some of the other items in our capital plan that have been begging for attention.   Just maybe, there’s a better plan that should be considered.     

Thank you,

Dick Burke

Editor's Note: Mr. Burke is an Oxford Board of Finance member

Joe Blow June 26, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Track/field at all costs, rah, rah, rah. I might be inclined to vote against this project just on principle of somebody trying to sneak one by.
Someone June 26, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Technology 1st...sports second....get the school district to purchase smart boards for every teacher before a football field for temple's son & friend s
Ed Rowland June 27, 2012 at 12:44 AM
I strongly agree with Mr.Burke.This whole process is moving way to fast and as Dick pointed out the grandlist has not gone up to much.Table this for now and come back in a year or two when we see a strong improvement in the economy.Plus the fact there are so many other things in town that should be a priority as compared to this field project.
JOhn Lavin June 27, 2012 at 01:00 AM
As a former Board of Ed member who has looked at many aspects of what was going on in the district, and the financial aspects they had, I am still wondering when one of our First Selectmen is going to put forth a good plan to deal with the crumbling Oxford Center School. I agree with Mr. Burke in saying that the fields would be nice but I don't think now is the time for them. I think we need a solution to replace Center School before fields. Let's apply a little logic to this (please). The longer we put off addressing the Center School issue the more likely it is that we will be dealing with issues at Great Oak and the other schools as they age and we will have a price tag that is much higher and we will have to address major repairs/replacements in big gulps rather than small bites. The costs of these repairs will skyrocket if we have to do this all at once rather than in a well planned, more affordable manner. Adding the fields is like putting in a swimming pool at your house when your roof is caving in.
Me June 27, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Ugh... bad economies for those people who have access to financing is the best time to buy -- more competitive bids and lower interest rates... good economies just drive prices up, interest rates are higher, vendors are less competitive... if the current fields are in poor shape that they need to be replaced eventually that will ultimately lead to getting these fields done (and I don't know if they do need to be replaced or not), then now is the time to do it. A $3.1M project today maybe a $3.5M project or more a year from now. How many of us would love to have access to extra money to buy investment rental properties because prices and interest rates are so right now? The same principal works for capital improvements, albeit a residential kitchen renovation or an athletic field. The old saying, "buy low - sell high", well we are near or at the low right now, time to buy. Point being, if/when the economy improves, the cost of this project will only be higher, then who is going to support it then? The contractors who bidded are obligated to only hold their quotes for 90 days, after that, it has to be requested for them to continue to hold their quote. The likelihood of contractors holding their quote for a year or more, is unlikely.
John M. Joy June 27, 2012 at 11:49 AM
...or the economy sinks further, in which case the taxpayers are on the hook for YET ANOTHER bond issue - especially if the real, after-the-fact price tag for this thing is substantially more than the three million quoted, as many believe it will be. (Remember the Quaker Farms School fiasco?)
Gym class hero June 27, 2012 at 11:49 AM
I agree that we should wait and look at this carefully. We have an old asphalt track at the middle school that needs to be replaced and tennis courts there as well that need to be replaced! Why are we spending money for new things when we don't take care and maintain/replace (Oxford center school) what we already have??
David Yish June 27, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I have to add my voice to the growing number of people who are concerned with this project and it's importance on the priority list that faces the town. I look forward to the day when we do build a football field and track but we should do it right and not conveniently bring in a project at $3.1M that "coincidently" falls just under the $3.2M figure that would require it to go to referendum. Coincidently, the project is missing an area for shotput/discus/javelin even though we have the 3rd best discus thrower in the nation at OHS. The prior committee exploring the fields had this feature in the plan not only for track but also as a practice area for football so they did not put additional wear on the new football surface. That was probably a good idea tossed aside to be politically expedient and one of many that concerns me.
David Yish June 27, 2012 at 01:30 PM
How many unfinished fields or poorly maintained ones do we have in town? I was a student when the baseball field was built at Great Oak School. Almost 25 years later there is still no fence around that field and it is overgrown. It is one of many in town that were started with the thought that we would come back later and complete things much like the proposed football field is being presented now. The plans for the field show the football/soccer layout facing East/West which is incorrect for football because it puts one team driving directly into the low setting fall sun. The existing football field at OHS, as poor as it is, is correctly positioned North/South to prevent this. These are just a few things that trouble me. Before anyone chimes in and says that I am just raising this because I didn't win another term, I raise these concerns as a person who played many sports in town as a kid and coache some now as a dad. My kids are almost through playing sports in town (my son will be a freshman at OHS) so I raise my voice for our youth in general.Hopefully they will not look at this field in 25 years and wonder why it was never fully completed like I look at our fields today.
Rangs June 27, 2012 at 01:56 PM
So, if this goes to vote and gets struck down.. are they just going to keep bringing it to vote over and over (and over) until it passes? Kind of like with OHS.
Janis Hardy June 28, 2012 at 01:30 AM
John, somewhere in the 98-99 timeframe, the Schreiber administration contracted for a school district study. The result of that WAS a plan to deal with Center School. We even were preparing to have an ED049 (?) prepared for submission to the state. However, that was forced to be put on hold because the high school supporters wouldn't have anything standing in the way of their high school, and vocal members of the community said we couldn't afford the tax increase. Same thing with the senior center and the library. It is now 13 years later and the only thing that has been addressed besides the high school is the senior center. The biggest lesson I learned from my years in public service is that you can't please anybody ever, and there is never a good time to do anything!
Coach Carb June 28, 2012 at 01:47 AM
I am very disappointed in Dick Burke and Dave Yish. I know you both, but sorry, I can't help thinking that your positions stem from electoral sour grapes. As far as the cost of the field, please consider that $3.1 Million bonded over 20 years at these historic interest rates amount to a few pennies a day for the average Oxford homeowner. Our kids are worth every penny. I agree that Oxford has a history of not finishing projects. This is a perfect example. Oxford High School is NOT FINISHED. ! This field project will be done correctly, completely and cost effectively. I also agree with those who correctly state that Oxford has many other projects that need attention. We need better roads and playgrounds. Center School is a disaster, Great Oak needs work, and we should build a library. Oxford needs to spend a ton of money to bring the Town into the 21st Century. There is only one way to develope all of these projects without tax increases - ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. I can tell you that Oxford Greens is going to build 160 new units. Each unit averages $5000. per year in property taxes. Peducian Chemical Corp is coming to town. They put the scents in detergents. They will pay several hundred thousand a year in taxes. The power plant project is alive and well, for up to $4 Million each year! I expect the Temple Administration to fully fund all of these projects while CUTTING our property taxes. Wait and see. Meanwhile, let's build the field!.
Janis Hardy June 28, 2012 at 02:16 AM
I am so sick and tired of people using the 'sour grapes' excuse whenever any politically active resident disagrees with their position. Winning (or losing) an election does not affect a person's ability to freely express his/her opinion! Our Constitution grants us all the freedom of speech. Deal with it! You sound like someone playing the race card whenever anyone disagrees with President Obama. Why can't people disagree with someone else's opinion simply because they have another point of view? Why does one side or another have to bully others by crying 'sour grapes' or 'racism'? And yes, this kind of intimidation is blatant bullying, and it is this petty behavior that interferes with honest public discourse on any particular issue.
Richard Burke June 28, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Mr Carbonaro, We have never spoken, so your claim to know me is an outright lie. If you've read my writings for the past nine years, and knew my history of volunteerism ... you would know that what I have written here rang the same long before Mr Temple was given the responsibity to steer our community. My non-political advice and thinking remains the same ... let's slow down, and consider the bigger picture. There is no NEED to rush this. The only thing pushing this may be the WANT of a select group. With regard to all the ED, I hope it all comes true. It may be best however to have the income in hand, before spending it. Let's put some real planning in motion.
Coach Carb June 28, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Dick, Calling me a liar is pretty low. We have met many times. We were both on the ORTC, you are BOF, I am BOE. We have not spoken extensively, because, frankly, I don't like you. But I do know you, trust me. There is no rush on the field proposal. We have only been waiting FIVE YEARS. I've never seen you at an Oxford football game at the disgraceful, unsafe mudpit we call a field. The select group that wants the field are the kids and parents of Oxford, along with the retirement communities who will come to the games and walk the track. You will hear our voices soon enough.
Richard Burke June 28, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Mr. C, I have called Mr Singley because I regret stooping to the level you brought me. It would’ve been more professional to say that your statement was false. Your interpretation of a few hellos while in passing is extreme. We have not met many times, nor as you admit … ever spoken extensively. All I know of you is per newspaper articles, which haven’t been complimentary. I don't believe we were on the ORTC together. I believe as you joined … I was departing. If wrong on this, I stand corrected. The rush on this field matter relates to the manner in which it has played out. The Center, and overall lower, School situation has waited longer. What's to become of Center School if abandoned as a school? Do Oxford taxpayers wish to invest in more open space rather than let residential growth go unchecked? A long list of serious maintenance issues has waited longer. The BoE requires a new home. The subject of a more suitable home for our Police Dept requires address. The Library debate is older than this field matter. Related to athletics and recreation, as Mr Yish brings up, existing problems might 1st receive attention. This list goes on. I have not said I’m against this project. All I suggest is ... before we charge ahead with any more large capital projects ... let's understand where we are going. As Mr. Palmer, who once drove a Long Range Plan initiative that has sadly died, used to say ... LET'S GROW BY CHOICE, NOT BY CHANCE. Respectfully, Mr Burke
Coach Carb June 28, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Hi Dick, Let's bury the hatchet. My hat is off to a master politician. I have a sense of humor, so I chuckled a bit at your latest post. You called Mr Singley because I made you call me a liar? Funny. Also, were you for the field before you were against it? Or were you against the field before you were for it? I'm confused... Rather, let's agree to sit together next year at our new field and watch the Oxford Wolverines pound Derby or Seymour. Maybe we can get some prominent Dems to join us. You see, this field will be a unifying force in our community, bringing us all closer together.
Richard Burke June 28, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Mr Carbonaro, In your case, humor just doesn’t work for me. Let me try real hard to help you understand. My call to Mr. Singley was to have my statement revised, as explained above. He has called back, and I told him to please disregard at this point. I carry no hatchet, nor do I have interest in establishing any form of relationship with you, other than that which the BoE and BoF may impose upon me in the future. You stated that you do not care for me, so … let’s just leave it at that, and agree to disagree. On support of the HS field/track issue; I think I’ve made my points very clear. Just as an FYI / As have you maybe, Mr Burke played football and wrestled in HS. As a young father, he coached a great many little league games; even won a championship here and there. In more recent years, he has attended an occasional Wolverine game, and every so often … he enjoys a visit to Posey Panko to watch a little league game. When he does these things, unlike you apparently, for no good reason … he’s discreet about it. That seems strange for the master politician that you’ve tried to label him as. This is my last post to you.
Richard Burke June 28, 2012 at 06:04 PM
To Oxford taxpayers, On this subject, I encourage all to attend the BoF public hearing on July 9th at 7:00 in the Oxford Town Hall. My fellow BoF members and I always appreciate and respect your input. If this project does receive BoF approval, in order to truly validate this as a project which the full town endorses, I hope the BoS has the courage to put it to referendum. Respectfully, Dick Burke
David Yish June 28, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Sorry Coach, if you look you can see that I predicted someone would say my stance was Sour Grapes but it simply isn't so. We served on a recent committee together and currently put our efforts into another. When you honestly think about it, we both did what we felt was right for our youth and checked politics at the door. Janis is right-the "Sour Grapes Card" just doesn't stick here. Glad you brought up OHS because you make MY point well. Each time the High School vote failed, the cost moved away from "sound engineering and architecture" costs and closer to what would "politically pass". Yes it finally made it but what we ended up with was what we "hoped" we could build it for and less of what we could "actually" build it for. I would feel more comfortable if there wasn't this effort to hold the project under the amount that would send it to referendum Coach. If the package is solid, the plan meets the need, and the estimates are accurate, there should be no fear to put it in front of the voter in November and let it stand the test of the ballot box. Anything short of that doesn't meet the standard of Oxford Together in my book. We are all entitled to our opinions, current elected officials or former ones and I respect your stance as well. Believe me, I want this as much as anyone else and I don't even have an athlete in my house that will use it but I want it correct. Look how long we take to complete things that fall short of the "goal-line".
Coach Carb June 29, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Hi Dave, You know that I both like and respect you. We have done some great work together and this will continue in the future. My "sour grapes" comment was said out of frustration about your position on the field and your recent support for a write-in candidate when you should have supported George. Had you prevailed in the primary, Oxford Together would have been all yours. You should support this project enthusiastically, like I do. You make good and valid points about unfinished projects in town. This field project will either be done correctly and completely, or it won't. Waiting and waiting some more won't fix that, nor will putting the question to referendum. I keep hearing that the project cost is "suspiciously" close to the figure it will take to send the question to referendom. The $3.1 Million price tag includes a 15% contingency! The actual bids are something like $2.6 Million. At $9 cents a day per household, what are we arguing about? There are appx 166 high schools in CT. We are one of the only schools without a field. It's embarrasing! Let's pass this project and build it. The people have waited long enough.
David Yish June 29, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Coach, I'd prefer to avoid rehashing old campaigns, because they have nothing to do with this topic but you keep coming back to it. You should know that I offered to meet with Mr. Temple the night I called him to congratulate him on his primary win in an effort to bring our party together. He chose not to take me up on that sincere offer. You would have to ask him why, not me. If I had any "sour grapes" in me, I would have been more vocal about other topics such as the release of the Tax List which I feel was unjust to those singled out and could have been handled better. I have kept quiet to allow the current administration leeway in how they carry out their affairs however they choose. Concerning the real issue which is the field, the skeptisism comes from the fact that the proposal is so close to the Charter requirement AND not whole. Why wouldn't there be a complete Track and Field facitity and some of it is dropped off? Why is there a field that is poorly positioned for day games and then no lights to play a night game? The only way the NFL will allow an East/West facing field is if it is a Dome because of this factor. If you try to bang a square peg into a round hole long enough, you might manage to get it in there but you are left with a bad peg, a tired person, and the peg stuck in the hole. A referendum allows everyone to weigh in and scrutinize the issue. Why is there a fear to let this stand the test of the voter if it is as solid as you say?
Oxford Resident June 29, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I agree, this needs to go to Referendum for ALL voters to decide, not only a few at a stacked meeting. I feel games have been played with the numbers and it seems "coincidental" the new Tax Collector's son plays on the football team, and this new Tax Collector just happens to be on the $3.1 million committee.
Madalene Taggart July 02, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Just as a clarification the tax Collector is only 30 years old and has a child under two if I am correct. She does not have a child playing football at OHS. Even if she did how would that have anything to do with whether a field gets built? Please get your facts correctly before you post them. We live in America and have the right to have different opinions, it's what makes America great. I think we should be careful however how we state those opinions. Name calling, belittling and untruths are not necessary when we post here. I don't like politics because of the friendships that I have seen ruined over them, I will say that I do agree with Mr. Burke. You don't have to like him or agree with him but I do know that he really has what he feel is the best financial interest of the town in mind at all times. What is the harm in sending this question to referendum? Either it passes or it doesn't and all the residents have a chance to decide not just those who can make the meeting.

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