How do you market corruption? Chelmsford officials have embarked on a stepped-up campaign for a new fire station in the town center, claiming there is no alternative. But the “need” for a new fire station is a manufactured situation, artificially engineered to avoid any discussion of refurbishment or extension of the existing facility. The repair option would interfere with the fraudulent land deal and unlawful construction by the Eliopoulos group that is obliterating our Village Green.
This proposal is part of the pact between Paul Cohen and public officials: Take care of me, and I’ll take care of you, not only while you’re in office, but after you leave office. Phil Eliopoulos and the 9 North Road debacle is a prime example, and there are others. But Bill Dalton still has not received his Big Score – the new fire station that he tirelessly advocated for as a selectman, and still lobbies for to this day.
The current proposal, to obliterate the girls’ softball field on Route 110 and eliminate the parking area for the remaining ballfields, is called the “Wilson Street” plan (to avoid any explicit reference to the ballfields). However, it should be called the Ballfield Boondoggle. It’s essentially the same plan that voters rejected last October, with a couple million trimmed from it (including, I suppose, the fire chief’s heated parking bay). It’s still asking the town’s residents to vote for a Proposition 2½ override of $9 million and, in doing so, validate the 9 North Road land giveaway along with the additional taking of valuable recreational fields.
I have been a marketing executive for some twenty years, yet this plan is so stupid I could never figure out a way to “sell” it. So town officials have resorted to lying. Paul Cohen and Phil Eliopoulos have lied repeatedly over an extended period of time, about their unethical roles in the transfer of the Village Green into the hands of Epsilon, LLC. The Board of Selectmen have presented all kinds of specious excuses to avoid upholding the law.
And the Planning Board sidestepped the bylaws eight times with eight special permits for “9 North Road” (the Village Green). Then they bypassed the law entirely by granting a site permit which ignored deed restrictions. The board is not empowered to ignore deed restrictions. The fig leaf excuse was that they were leaving it up to the BOS to enforce the deed restrictions - a specious argument to begin with, but made worse when chair Ann McGuigan testified at the Aug. 23 BOS hearing that the BOS should NOT enforce the deed restrictions… because the Planning Board had already granted permits!
Fire Captain Hank Houle in early 2009 supported a sensible proposal to refurbish and extend the current Center Fire Station, and even took the initiative to research availability of the land behind the station from Eastern Bank. He presented the opportunity to Paul Cohen on a silver platter, with contact information and even a possible deal for no cash. We all know Cohen’s response: squash any potential deal and let the Eliopoulos’ complete their purchase of the land for their unlawful private development.
And Cohen’s reward to Hank Houle for this initiative was to pass him over for promotion, choosing instead a new fire chief whose “top priority is a new fire station.” Imagine that.
The disconnect between the Board of Selectmen and the good citizens of Chelmsford could not be clearer.
The town's BOS unanimously voted for the new Fire Station in 2009 and then when the residents had a chance to vote, they overwhelmingly rejected the proposal 58%-42%.
Now the BOS and Permanent Building Committee are saying the problem is their marketing plan. However the reality is that they simply chose to ignore the expressed sentiment of the voters. They are again publicly stating that taxpayers will not feel the effect of the costs. I suggest that no marketing plan can explain how a $9 million override will not be felt. Nor can any marketing plan can explain why residents should accept the loss of the girls' ballfield space on top of the loss of the Village Green – and pay millions for the privilege.
You can do something about this nonsense.
Our town officials are not willing to uphold the law and need to be replaced. Dick McClure is running for Planning Board, and Laurie Myers is running for selectman. Both have opponents who are an integral part of the old boy network and have a track record of acting against the best interests of the town’s residents in favor of cronies and special interest lobbyists. If we elect board members like McClure and Myers who are pleased to follow the law and act on behalf of residents rather than predatory developers (and former town officials) then we can check the malfeasance and breach of fiduciary duty that continues to this day.
The pervasive corruption, aggressive intimidation tactics, and coordinated smear tactics of town officials have dissuaded many good citizens from considering a run for office. It’s an insiders’ game to keep the reins in the hands of the approved inner circle. But courageous candidates like Laurie Myers and Dick McClure can break the cycle of lying and corrupt decision making that have plagued our Planning Board and Board of Selectmen for years now.
We’ll be sending you more factual information as the disinformation and propaganda continues to stream from Town Hall. And we’ll provide you more ways to directly support Myers, McClure and other good candidates in the coming weeks. In the meantime, keep us informed of any information you think might be helpful in cleaning up Chelmsford’s government, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours with best wishes and hope for the future of our town,
Roland Van Liew