December 4, 2021

Aitken School “Expansion” Project, Covid-19 Emergency Relief Funding, Open Meeting Law Complaints

Posted

Hello Fellow Seekonk Neighbors:

Items currently being followed up on are the final expenditures for the Aitken School “Expansion” Project, use of Covid 19 Emergency Relief Funding and status of Open Meeting Law Complaints (from the public perspective).

Aitken School “Expansion”:
As a reminder, during Town Meeting of November 19. 2018, the Town approved moving forward for a debt exclusion vote on $1,000,000.00 to find an OPM (Owner Project Manager) and an Architectural/Engineering Designer to spec and plan an addition of 10 classrooms proposed by SC Chairman Sluter and Super Dr. Drolet. This project passed the ballot vote but not before the School Committee took it upon themselves to create an “adhoc committee” to review the project. In doing so, the School Committee inappropriately assigned members to the group without proper identification at their meeting. They used numbers. (i.e. applicant #1, #2, etc.). Clearly an issue of Open Meeting Law. Included in that Adhoc Committee was a member of DRA. DRA is the Firm that SC Chair Sluter has repeatedly said consults for “free”. DRA is also the firm that was ultimately awarded the project, to spec and plan as a paid vendor.

At the Town Meeting of May 13, 2019, the Town approved moving forward for another debt exclusion vote on $10,500,000.00 to be added to the abovementioned monies. The warrant read the project belonged to the Board of Selectmen yet was presented once again by SC Chair Sluter and Super Dr. Drolet. Their sales pitch was they needed space. There was a consideration for redistricting but the “increase in enrollment” is expected at 3% in the coming years. SC Chair Sluter also said they “added a few capital items” because “they did not want to come back to town meeting again.” Enrollment numbers do not support the expectation.

We have listened to the Building Committee Chair say repeatedly that the financials for the project are “under budget”. Yet, we have no tangible numbers from them.

How much under budget?
As a result, we have a beautiful brand-new elementary school with all the fixings. When you consider the money poured into it since 2016, $15,737,402.00 in various appropriations (free cash and debt exclusions) it should be damn near perfect!!
People need to care about our tax bills. Only a portion has hit us with more to come. Elected officials should too and not just at election time when they tell us they will take care of us and selfishly do not.

Covid 19 Emergency Relief Funding:
The search goes on for accurate accountability for the federal money received in the school district for Covid Relief. There are guidelines to receive and utilize that money. Research continues to collect the information. What came in? How was it used? How much is left?

Open Meeting Law Complaints:
There have been numerous letters sent to the Attorney General’s office regarding agenda items, meeting minutes or lack thereof and the findings in some of the meeting minute documents. There remains one important decision to be rendered by the Attorney General’s office that is still an active investigation as far as this writer is concerned. Stay tuned.

There is still work to be done. Some of which are the creation and wording of Warrant Articles and how they are carried out, Accountability/Financial Reports for Building Projects and Adhering to Town By-Laws and Charter.

Town Elected Officials are no better than the people they are sworn to serve. Yet, they are ready to enforce by-law to the point of court hearings if they must but what are we to do when “they” violate by-law?

Doreen Taylor


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