Letter: Things need to change in Prospect

0
15

To the editor,

Mayor Bob has done a good job for 36 years. Now I know he was first elected in 1977, so let me explain how I arrived at that number.

Upon moving to Prospect in 1998, and like many still do today, I assumed “What’s good for Bob was also good for Prospect.” Shortly thereafter I joined the local Republican Party, spent seven years on Planning and Zoning and then the Town Council in 2007, where it’s been my privilege to serve you as its chairman for the past ten years. During my first four years on the council, I supported Bob’s initiatives without question. In 2011, things started to change and I felt an obligation to better understand how and why certain fiscal decisions were being made.

The most financially significant item was the mayor’s decision to ignore a legislative change in Hartford in 2011 which would have allowed the 23 town employees to join with the 400-plus Region 16 employees in their healthcare coverage. That move would have annually saved Prospect taxpayers about $150,000 in premiums. Some members of the Town Council continued to push this topic, and four years later that switch was finally made, but by then at least an additional $550,000 had been passed onto Prospect’s taxpayers. The response from the Mayor’s Office was that “the town employees weren’t comfortable changing insurers.”

Prospect has a formal bidding process in place that is required for the town’s purchase of goods or services in excess of $5,000 a year. The mayor takes pride in pointing out situations where this has allowed him to save $3 a ton for asphalt or $5 a ton for road salt. However, sometimes he bypasses that process entirely in favor of extending a no-bid arrangement with certain vendors where the annual cost to the taxpayer is measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. When questioned, the reply: that’s just how things get done here in Prospect.

Over the last few annual budget cycles, I raised questions like, “Where is the money going?”  Last year, the council identified that an annually recurring $36,000 item called “Town Aid Roads,” which is money we recognize as revenue from the state, was also being listed as an expense item in the mayor’s recommended budget, which increases the tax burden every year.  This practice apparently goes back decades and totals at least another $500,000 in additional taxes. When asked why, “that’s the way we’ve been doing it for years.”

For those who have been following news recent articles you know that the mayor recently turned over some long sought-after financial documents and clearly acknowledged that there had been some “human errors” made in the accounting processes. While humans certainly do make errors, how many times can those errors be made before whoever is in charge realizes there is a problem? All of these topics are a matter of public record, but they typically don’t get much attention during an election cycle. One of the mayor’s favorite sayings is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Clearly the town’s accounting practices are broken, and if not fixed, the next thing going broke is the Prospect taxpayer.

With no one running against him this November, the mayor will soon be starting his 21st term, but his policies are firmly anchored in “Jimmy Carter Era” thinking. One thing the voters can do to help Prospect avoid a head-on collision with the 21st century is to look very closely at this year’s under-ticket, focusing on the candidates running for the Town Council. Be very cautious about handing the mayor a majority control of the council, which sometimes functions as a rubber stamp for whatever the mayor wants. The Town Council must be accountable to the electorate, and not be a tool of the mayor. Chronologically, Mayor Bob has occupied that office for 40 years, and while the last four may have been rewarding for him and his inner circle, I don’t think they’ve been all that good for the rest of Prospect.

One final thought: please don’t complain about high property taxes if you’re not willing to help make changes to the way that things have “always happened” here in Prospect.

Thomas J. Galvin

Prospect

The writer is the current chairman of the Prospect Town Council and former Chairman of the Prospect Republican Town Committee. He is not running for office in November.