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Public tells commission to stand up to delegation

November 23, 2011
OSSIPEE— "At a certain point, stand up!" summed up Henry Spencer's rant at the Nov. 16 Carroll County Commissioners meeting as he and other members of the audience expressed their disgust at the county delegation's handling of the plow truck purchase.

The county commissioners had asked the 10 members of the 14-member delegation present at the delegation meeting Nov. 14 if they could withdraw money, at least in part, from the nursing home construction contingency fund. That $1.2 million fund, explained Commissioner David Sorensen, was built in to the construction budget to allow for equipment purchases or subcontractor overages not estimated in the original budget. The commissioners argued to the delegation that because of the new home's added walkways, driveways, and parking lots, additional snow removal equipment is needed this year. This includes a snow blower and pickup truck with sander and plow attachments.

The delegation had already voted a month prior that they do not want the money for the truck coming out of the contingency fund. It took the group an hour and a half to come to that same decision a second time Nov. 14. They told the commissioners the truck purchase is fine and said they can pay for it by taking money from wherever they can find it in the various departments' operating budgets such as the jail, county attorney, and sheriff's department budget.

At last week's commissioners meeting, Wakefield resident Steve Brown said of the delegation, "An hour and a half? It brings it vividly clear why this country is so messed up and nothing gets accomplished."

The delegation's vote against taking the money from the contingency fund then their vote to allow the commissioners to purchase the truck as long as they don't touch the fund left many shaking their heads. While the delegation is charged with approving the annual budget and its bottom line, does the delegation really have the authority to tell the commissioners how to spend it or are the commissioners the managers of the county and the bottom line?

"Maybe it's time to get a legal opinion," said Sorensen. He agreed that they could go against the delegation's decision but pointed out they, in turn, "have the right to make drastic cuts to the commissioner's proposed 2012 budget if they choose to retaliate." Commissioner Dorothy Solomon agreed with him. Sorensen also confirmed that there were never any restrictions placed on the contingency fund when the nursing home construction was approved.

Spencer tried to persuade the commissioners that it's time to stand up to the delegation. Spencer said the delegates are forcing the commissioners to steal money from all the other departments. "If you think you have the right to take the money from the contingency fund, I'd use the money. Putting you in a position to take money from all the department heads…totally [alienating] all the people you have to work with. I wouldn't take what the delegation says as what you have to do. They have been misappropriating money left and right (in Concord)… They are trying to put a level of behavior on you that they don't live up to themselves. I think [their dictate] puts you in a position that's bad management. Your job is to run the county government as efficiently and copeseticly as possible and they are telling you not to," said Spencer.

The ¾-ton pickup with plow and sander has been ordered and is expected to take six weeks to arrive, just in time for the snow season.

The commissioners will have to decide if they are going to take the delegation's advice or, as all three commissioners agree, take the money out of the contingency fund.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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