Arlington Park Committee, officials at odds over equipment

ARLINGTON -- The Select Board and the Arlington Recreational and Park Committee Inc. are disputing ownership of the Arlington Recreational Park's equipment.

In a letter sent by its attorney, Robert E. Woolmington, the committee said it plans to pick up the equipment on Oct. 28 at 10 a.m.

The board discussed the matter Monday and passed a motion to send a letter to the committee telling it that no equipment would be turned over without sufficient evidence in the forms of invoices and bills of sale showing the items were not bought with taxpayer money.

The board and committee have been at odds since earlier this year when the committee told the board it wished to dissolve and turn control of the park over to the board. Control of the park did shift, but the committee's leadership changed, and it now does not wish to relinquish control of the park.

Woolmington's letter, dated Sept. 6, mentions the equipment which he claims was not rightfully appropriated by the town, as well as "(Federal Emergency Management Agency) reimbursements promised by the Town to the Committee in connection with costs incurred by the Committee to repair flood damage at the park."

The reference is to damage done in 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene.

Select Board Chairman Keith Squires said that after the damage was surveyed it was determined the town could get FEMA funds if it applied, while the committee could only get a loan through the Small Business Administration. "It became pretty evident pretty quick the way to go was through the town," Squires said.

He said the town got the FEMA funding and used it with some left over. "The town has said from day one any money allocated for that park will be spent in that park," he said. "If we have to buy equipment with it, we'll buy equipment with it, but we don't want to do that; we want to do some other projects with it."

Squires said the committee is requesting reimbursement for expenses using those funds which have been estimated at between $9,000 and $17,000. According to Squires, some of the things the committee wants reimbursement for are not covered by FEMA, and because the money went to the town it has to be accounted for by the town.

"If we were to cut the corporation a check we would be in violation of every rule in the book from FEMA," he said.

Squires said town reports indicate the park's equipment is owned by the taxpayers of Arlington. Squires said Woolmington's letter left the town three options: refusal, requesting invoices, or buying the equipment.

"The truth of the matter is we want to continue to be a recreational committee. We need funds like everybody else does," said Rick Shultz, a member of the committee who attended the board meeting. "Right now we have no money in our checking account, so that's why we are trying to recover the equipment."

"So you're going to take the equipment, sell it off, and that's how you're going to pay for your lawyer?" asked board member Reginald Jennings.

"Not necessarily," said Shultz, who added that he could not speak for the committee and had come as an observer.

Squires said the board has reached out to the committee a number of times in an attempt to meet, but so far no one but Shultz has shown up. He said all the contact with the committee has been through attorney letters, which he said threaten litigation. Squires said the board has discussed them in executive session and been able to avoid court, but the request for the equipment requires action in open session.

As part of its motion to respond to the committee's letter, the board said it would ask Shultz to try and arrange a meeting between the board and committee without attorneys. Shultz said he would be glad to work to that end, and both he and board members lamented how adversarial communications between board and committee have become. Shultz said many on the committee do not wish for litigation.


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