Storm Sandy is here and there may be some unexpected cost to the Town of Coventry so the Opining Quill looked back at the minutes of the Coventry Town Council from the current term to check spending. Here is an example of how our tax dollars are being safely guarded and spent. The substantial quotations found below are all taken from Town Council meeting minutes.
On 9/19/11 a committee of citizens came before the Coventry Town Council to propose a memorial statue of Nathan Hale and to ask that a location and funding guarantee be considered. The total cost for the statue was represented to be $46,750 and the committee was asking that the amount to be guaranteed be $50,000. According to the minutes of the meeting Councilman Steven Hall, felt $50,000 was “a lot of money”. Mr. Hall asked if there was a fundraising plan and asked, “do the committee members agree this guarantee would be a repayable loan?” The committee representative John Twerdy agreed, and there was no correction or disagreement by anyone present to the representation that the money would be considered a loan.
The minutes seem to indicate as questioning how the process would work. “Julie Blanchard asked Beth Bauer to explain how a payment/guarantee mechanism would be set up. Ms. Bauer replied the process is not complicated, however, the Town Attorney would need to work on defining and outlining the relationship; the Town is becoming more involved than first expected and the relationship would have to be understood.”
Apparently the idea of the Town guarantee for the loan was something new and not an original idea of the committee. “Steven Hall said initially this statue was to be a gift to the Town with no Town guarantee. The genesis of a town guarantee came from the Council as there was enthusiasm to get the project moving. Mr. Hall is reluctant to guarantee up to $50,000 of taxpayer money until he sees some fundraising results.” Mr. Hall was not alone in voicing concern as Richard Williams said “He cannot spend taxpayer money for a statue.”
Town Finance Director Beth Bauer said, “she would like to see a fundraising plan and a cash flow schedule.” Committee representative Paul Jatkowski replied “such a schedule is difficult with donations” he went on to say, “he can’t predict when or how much money will arrive.”
On October 3, 2011 the committee once again appeared before the Town Council. The committee asks for the Town Council to guarantee $26,750 for the project.
The original plan was for a single plaque but then the Town Council thought it would be good idea to expand the project to include three additional plaques. “The statue committee had a vision of giving the Town a Nathan Hale statue as a gift; additional plaques were not in their vision.” The memorial committee asked, “if additional plaques are planned, that the Town donate the costs.”
“Richard Williams suggested the four plaques be included in the total project to be paid though fundraising. Larry Wasiele (from the committee) agreed that could happen. The Town Manager said if fundraising did not fully fund the additional plaques they could be included in a future budget.”
The Town Council voted unanimously to guarantee $26,750 for the Nathan Hale Memorial. Of course that is not the end of the story
On October 2, 2012 the Nathan Hale Memorial Committee was once again before the Town Council. This time they were not looking for money but for forgiveness. The committee still owed the Town the entire amount of $26,750 and wanted to be released from obligation to continue fundraising to cover repayment of the original loan.
Here again is a quote from the minutes of that meeting, “a copy of the financial report of the committee was distributed. $31,723.00 has been raised. In kind approximately $40,000.00. Expenses were $55,968.55. “Councilwoman Lisa Thomas, “noted that over $70,000.00 has been donated including in kind services.”
The matter was settled when Councilwoman Joan Lewis made a motion “that all donations in excess of expenses be turned over to the Town on a biweekly basis but that the Committee is hereby released from all additional fund raising activities.” Councilman Jeff Shorts was the only vote of opposition to the motion.
In the end, if there are no additional donations for the Nathan Hale Memorial the taxpayers will have spent $26,750 for a statue of Nathan Hale. At the 40:25 mark in the recording of the October 2, 2012 meeting Town Manager John Elsesser states, “the money is actually an appropriation” and referring to the money Mr. Elsesser went on to say, ”so it is already written off the books”.
So there you have it the Town Council bailed out the Nathan Hale Memorial Committee and now the taxpayers need a bailout. If you would like to bailout the taxpayers you may still make a donation. The website for the project has expired and donation information is no longer available but it would seem a donation could still be sent to the Town of Coventry, 1712 Main Street Coventry CT. 06238. Please include a notation that money donated is for the Nathan Hale Memorial.