Board of Selectmen January 14, 2013 Public Audience

Public Policy Issues

Board of Selectmen – January 14, 2013

Now that we are approaching town elections, I would hope that Simsbury citizens would observe that this board does not respond to any comments from the public either publicly or privately. If I were to grade this board I would give them an “F” in failing to tackle controversial issues. Their only concern is to garnish enough votes from the lobbying groups and not to offend anyone to get elected.  By choosing this path the pendulum has dipped in favor of the developers and the lobbying groups passing the costs to the taxpayers.

From my observation this board has put Simsbury up for sale under the guise of economic development. A developer came before this board recently asking for a change in the land use of his purchased property from Ensign Bickford in order to maximize his profits. This board cowered to his wishes and voted in favor of eliminating the affordable housing restriction while the zoning board eliminated the 55 and over clause on the same property. This is not Economic Development this is voodoo economics.  I would not criticize the developer from trying to maximize his profits but I would criticize this board for not taking a firm position in favor of the taxpayers. The Poor Farm should never have been turned over to the Elite Ethel Walker School who has never contributed any revenue to the general fund in lieu of taxes. The taxpayers are subsidizing the Elite Ethel Walker School. 

How this board can vote in favor of selling Pharos Farm to the Hall family with a farming only restriction when restrictions on properties have not been beneficial in the past. Does this board refuse to offend the Land Trust by voting against this bizarre proposal when our town staff had registered their legitimate concernsagainst the sale?  Why is this board continuing to support having the Elite Ethel Walker School manage our Poor Farm in violation of the Eno Trust?

Why is town staff allocating their resources and time to the Performing Arts and a Bicycle Friendly group without charging them for staff resources? Why is Main Street Partnership, a non-profit group, incorporated into a Town budget when the town has placed a hiring freeze on staff?  Where are the priorities? When is the town going to fill key management positions when Rich Sawitzke, Town Engineer, Jim Clifton, Director of Water Pollution, and Wally MacDonald, head of the highway department retire this year? 

These are key positions requiring knowledgeable and certified employees.  There should be a seamless transition. Why is the town proposing an 8 million dollar expenditure for a Senior Center when the Simsbury library could incorporate many of the programs?

Our elected officials should not impose huge legacy costs on the taxpayers to
appease a Senior Citizen lobbying group. With the State having a huge deficit,
money will be reduced to the towns. Now that The Hartford in Simsbury has sold off many of their products there will be greatly reduced taxes to the town. It is
time to think out of the box and not kick the can down the road to present and
future taxpayers of our town.

Why has First Selectman Mary Glassman promised the golfers a $5000 match to their contribution for improvements with taxpayer dollars?


How can Mr. Toner manage the Culture Parks and Recreation Commission effectively when the minutes of the November, 2012 meeting state, “Currently,
copies of field maintenance invoices are sent to multiple teams who use the fields.
These teams then send their portion directly to the vendor.” How many other
groups have a pay as you go policy? The minutes also state, “ Simsbury Farms
revenues have not been able to keep up with expenses in seven of the last ten
years. The past two years show the greatest negative balance.”  Why have the taxpayers subsidized the funds when we are told that they are self sufficient? Is this an effective business plan?  This was written by a member of the paddle team. I just wanted you to understand the history of paddle fees and their huge increases in past several years:

  • 2005/6, 2006/7, 2007/8 = $200/court for the season
  • 2008/9, 2009/10 = $240/ct (+20%)
  • 2010/11, 20011/12 = $300/ct (+25%)
  • 2012/13 = $350/ct (+17%)

In 3 years paddle fees have increased by 46%….yikes.

In 5 years they have raised the price 75%

It appears that the paddle players have been singled out for exorbitant increases since they do not have a lobbying group on the Commission.  Are
the Paddle fee increases consistent with the golf, skating and swim fees?   Why has this board voted unanimously for a failed walk-on policy for the use of the paddle courts? When is this policy going to be rescinded? When are the paddle fees going to be reduced? Why has this board allowed Mr. Toner to get away with his bizarre management practices? Where is the accountability? Is this board afraid to offend the golf lobby and other constituencies that get a pass on rate increases?

Since there has been a focus on violence in the schools, I requested the number of bullying incidents in all the Simsbury schools for this year. I was told that there was one incident documented. I questioned the number since it appears that there is a culture of denial in the Simsbury School system. As I recall it took 21/2 years for the administration to admit that Kevin Kane’s child was continually bullied. This denial had a devastating effect on the family. As a result of my inquiry I received a letter stating, “ As I shared with you on Wednesday when you visited my office, this number is not reflective of the incredible collective and
proactive efforts in place at each school, to promote climate of safety and
respect, and to address and eradicate mean behavior. If you have any additional
concerns, please feel free to contact me. Signed Susan M. Homrok-Lemke
Assistant Superintendent for Administration & Human Resource
Development.   I would hope that this administration takes bullying seriously in this continued climate of violence in schools.

This month has been designated Black History Month.  While reviewing some of my files, I found a map dated from 1642 – 1935 which showed the Farmington River in Simsbury and all the tributaries. I noticed that there was a notation on the map that one area of the river appeared to be called nigger elbow. Does anyone know the history behind this notation?

Now that the newly adapted Charter is in effect and the First Selectman’s position has evolved into a Mayor’s position with all the authority in the hands of a pseudo Town Manager, is the six figure salary appropriate for this position? Since this
board has the power to adopt a salary for the First Selectman position I would
suggest that they lower the salary in the 13/14 budget. Since the responsibility has diminished so should the salary.

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Highway Worker January 15, 2013 at 01:22 PM
Thank you Joan you ask the questions we are all wondering. About the map note. I was told by a life long resident. It was where the tobacco workers went after working all day in the fields for a swim. Hope this helps. I disagree with Lisa Heavner name thrown out for Deputy...seriously?!!
Ron Patterson January 15, 2013 at 03:19 PM
I disagree with the tone of the comments. In general, Town management has done an excellent job of balancing our tax dollars and project needs/development. I hardly think Simsbury has "sold out" to developers; if anything, the opposite is true and the Town has a reputation for being difficult with new business development. Simsbury Farms is a jewel for the Town and funding improvements to the facilities and sports venues is needed to keep it up to date and enjoyable for residents. The golf course revenues support many other sports there and therefore deserves focus from the Town. All in all, Simsbury's leadership is doing an excellent job.
David Moelling January 15, 2013 at 06:14 PM
Say Ron, I see 700 staff at the Hartford in Simsbury are affected by the Retirement group sale to MassMutual. At a minimum they will be moved to Enfield but it's not clear how many will be offered jobs. Now I know the Land Trust (in it's new big money form) would be glad to get them all to move away, but the town has been pretty poor in making sure the commercial tax base is maintained to balance the reduced housing grand list. Hopefully we can save some money by the reduced school enrollment if allowed to by the BOE. This is what happens when citizens base their self-esteem on their zip code, not themselves.
Robert Kalechman January 19, 2013 at 03:05 AM
Mr Patterson your point is well taking but never the less the towns cost are to high the leadership you speak of except the Police Department of Simsbury is much to high we can get fine help at half the price if we take the good old boy system and replace it with the merit system.The trouble with Parks and Rec to many dogs in the fight Parks are for the youth of Simsbury not for golfers
Scott Greenfield December 27, 2013 at 11:45 PM
Used to party at nigger's elbow often as a youth,,, I just thought the racist,whitebread,Simsburites named it...


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