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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

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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