, Salem, MA


May 9, 2014

Letter: More answers needed on Linebrook Road project

To the editor:

There is a citizen’s petition on the warrant for the May 13 Ipswich Town Meeting asking voters to rescind the Linebrook Road rebuilding and water main replacement projects. Why? It’s pretty simple: a blank check for $3.65 million and the lack of a defined project a year later.

One year ago, the resurfacing of a potholed Linebrook Road was being discussed by the town manager and the Board of Selectmen with a very roughly estimated cost of $2 million. During those discussions, a citizens group came forward asking to include new sidewalks, road widening and bicycle lanes. The repaving of the Doyon School parking lot was also added to the mix. There were no designs, no written cost estimates, no bids and no materials of any kind that defined the scope of the work by the April 8, 2013, Board of Selectmen’s meeting, during which a $3 million figure was pretty much pulled out of the air. “Let’s just ask for $3 million and see what happens,” said one selectman. A second selectman asked, “What would be the problem with laying $3 million on them?” “What kind of pushback could there be to ask for $3 million?” Still with no written estimates, bids, designs or a defined project, the $3 million figure was placed on the 2013 Annual Town Meeting warrant, and it passed. The following week, the bond authorization was approved at the ballot box, but only by 77 votes.

Six months later, at the fall Special Town Meeting, the voters were presented with another article relative to the Linebrook Road project. Water main replacement, which makes perfect sense to do during road reconstruction, except that this should have been presented as part of the original Linebrook Road package so taxpayers and water ratepayers could have known the entire scope of the project and the total effect on their wallets before voting on it. Those who voted for the original $3 million did not know at that time that they would be hit with another $650,000 as part of that same project. That is deceitful, and the result at the ballot box might have been very different if all of the information had been transparently and properly presented.

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