|Former councilor Albert D. Vecchia, Jr. and "his" road|
Former town councilor Albert D. Vecchia, Jr. had an interesting letter in June 22nd’s Southbridge Evening News. Titled “Vecchia: Clemence ‘best councilor I ever served with’” it read as follows:
To the Editor:
In the Monday, June 18 Southbridge Evening News, a non-incumbent Town Council candidate was quoted: “[The Council] needs to be held accountable for the unwise and unnecessary expenditure of $7.5 million to build the Industrial Park Road.”
He also singles out Councilor Denise Clemence as the problem.
What a lie! What expenditure? There was none. Casella paid for the road and gives us $1.8 million a year in royalties for building the road. That is a savings of 18 percent a year off the Southbridge home owners real estate tax bills.
I know — because I cast the deciding vote.
Also, anybody who does not see that Denise Clemence is the hardest working, most knowledgeable, genuine, caring councilor is looking the other way.
I have served on six different town councils — and Denise Clemence stands out as the best councilor I ever served with.
ALBERT D. VECCHIA JR.
Now here is a professional accountant claiming that there was no expenditure. Did the contractor build the road for free?
Of course there was an expenditure. I can only conclude that the point he is trying to make is that there was no cost to the town.
This would result from viewing the expenditure as having been financed by the town through its bonding capacity and the town would then be reimbursed by Casella.
This of course overlooks the fact that, based on a refinancing of outstanding debt by Casella at the time, their cost of borrowing was 10 percentage points higher than the town’s. So this deal saved Casella an immense amount of money.
Further, the deal did cost the town a great deal. As any economist or businessman will tell you, there is a very real thing called opportunity cost. What that means is that when you tie up an asset it is unavailable for other uses.
The town’s financing of this road so extended the town’s bonding capacity that it required major manipulation to structure the financing of the new school project. It left no wiggle room for the expansion so desperately needed by Bay Path.
Another misleading comment is the remark that Casella is making royalty payments of $1.8 million a year for building the road. This is totally incorrect. That payment is for use of what is a wasting asset, in essence for depreciating the value of the landfill by using up its capacity so that it eventually can no longer be used for that purpose.
Finally, the former councilor proudly claims that he was the deciding vote to go ahead with the road. He conveniently forgets another letter he had published in the Southbridge Evening News when he was running for that office.
To the Editor:
On June 27, 2006, the people of Southbridge voted yes on the following ballot question;
“Shall the town vote to adopt a measure requesting that the General Court enact special legislation establishing the industrial park access road from Worcester Street (State Route 169) to Pleasant Street in the Town of Southbridge as a public way?”
A debate raged in the town if this was really to benefit our citizens by providing access to an industrial park or merely a means to benefit Casella whose landfill operations just happened to be along that proposed roadway.
This whole matter was brought to mind again on October 15 when the Chairman of the Southbridge Airport Commission, George Chenier, appeared before a meeting of the Southbridge Town Council.
He said, “The other thing I want to bring before Council, which is very important, you have the development of the industrial park access road going forward...the land that is controlled by the airport both within the fence and out of the fenced in area comes under what is called a Airport Master Plan and layout. To utilize any of that land under the control of the airport commission takes a change of the airport layout or a Master Plan update. That takes anywhere from 16 months from two years to do.”
Why weren’t the approvals of the agencies that were required to authorize this project (the Massachusetts Aeronautical Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration) sought before this ballot question was put before the public?
A month of research has highlighted some interesting issues.
First, other experts have said that such approval could take as long as three years. In fact, such approval may never be granted. The presence of the landfill is a negative factor for two reasons. In the case of Lynn, authorizations were not granted because of concerns about height issues from a neighboring landfill. There is also a serious concern about airport safety resulting from the number of birds that a landfill attracts.
I have obtained maps that clearly show that the proposed access road to the industrial park crosses property that falls within the airport Master Plan and its land use plan. The numerous state and federal grants that the airport has received are based upon compliance with these plans. Violation of these plans would jeopardize these grants. Thus, these agencies must approve the plan for continuing the access road beyond the landfill, which falls outside the perimeter of these plans.
So why weren’t these approvals sought beforehand.
The right of way for this road granted by United Lens expires on June 30, 2009.
There was a risk that the process of approvals would have gone beyond the expiration date of the grant of easement by United Lens. If that happened, then there would have been no access road to the landfill from Worcester Street. So the politically wise move was to sell the road as an access road to a “maybe” industrial park --- and worry about the approvals later. But whatever happened, Casella would have its access road.
The opponents of this road were in fact right. It was an access road for Casella. There’s still no guarantee that it will ever reach the proposed industrial park.
My message to the voters of Southbridge is simple --- you’ve been sandbagged again.
Albert D. Vecchia, Jr.
Perhaps his endorsement of councilor Clemence is precisely what she deserves.