ABC and "D" Day Coming for School Building Committee

"Every taxpayer has the right to make it known."

Falmouth Board of Selectmen-2-24-08
   Frustration was clearly etched on every face last night as the Falmouth Board of Selectmen pondered the cost overruns for the high school.

Falmouth Selectmen last night offered a stern and unmistakable warning to the School Building Committee - play now, or pay later

Armed with a precedent-setting determination from the MA Department of Revenue (DOR) that the requested $18.8 million in additional funding for the Falmouth High School renovation need not be placed on the ballot, Falmouth Selectmen last night offered a stern and unmistakable warning to the School Building Committee - play now, or pay later.  Members of the committee charged with managing Falmouth's largest-ever building project were not present at the meeting, but were still the center of attention, as Board members made it clear that without a signed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) detailing changes in accountability, oversight, and even makeup of the committee itself, the unfinished project risks losing the support of the town's chief elected officials.

Chairman Kevin Murphy attempted to be diplomatic, but could not shield his frustration that some unnamed members of the Building Committee have balked at language that would give the Selectmen a greater role in what has become the most politically charged issue in recent memory.  In discussing the DOR determination that the additional funds are within the scope of the original ballot vote, Murphy noted that the project still "needs the support of the whole community" in alluding to the need for an additional ballot vote.  Even as a supplemental request, the requested funds represent the second largest appropriation in the town's history. 

Board veteran Carey Murphy made his inclinations clear, as he noted that "Unless I want to fireproof my house and wear a bullet proof vest," the voters should have a say in this issue.  Selectman Ahmed Mustafa appeared to agree, noting that "Every taxpayer has the right to make it (their opinion) known."

The Board stopped short of a formal vote on the placement of the question on the ballot, apparently dangling a carrot before the Building Committee in anticipation of a meeting this week to discuss the MOA.  Selectman Catherine Bumpus summed up the feelings of the Board - vote or no vote - when she clearly offered a threat to the Buidling Committee that the funds will be opposed on Town Meeting floor by the Selectmen without a signed MOA in place.

The Building Committee is loaded with competent, experienced, and politically astute veterans of local politics.  They have to see the futility in continuing down the current path alone.  Agreeing to share management over this bloated project is not a defeat of any sort - it is a recognition that in order to be successful - they must ask for help. They must recognize that without an infusion of new credibility and leadership, this project is doomed to fail - and that failure would reverberate for a generation.

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