Yesterday I met with the Boothbay town manager to obtain a copy of the 2002 “State Route 27 Corridor Study” and to question him about the town’s relationship with Paul Coulombe’s limited liability corporation (PGC5), the entity the selectmen propose the town partner with in the creation of the roundabout project. The selectmen refer to the “Corridor Study” as the Bible on which they base their conviction that we have serious safety and traffic problems and that a roundabout is the answer to them. What I learned in the conversation and by reading the “Corridor Study” astounded me.
1. Only four of the 2002 corridor study’s 48 pages discuss the Boothbay Common area. They contain not one word about traffic safety. The study makes no claim that an unsafe situation exists. It recommends a roundabout at the Corey Lane intersection in order to relieve traffic congestion. It provides no statistics about traffic congestion. It doesn’t quantify or evaluate the degree of congestion. It doesn’t distinguish between summer event days, all other summer days, and the rest of the year. It provides no analysis to support the recommendation for a roundabout. What astounds me is that this is the report our selectmen reference as the basis for their view that a roundabout is necessary for safety reasons.
The 2016 study by PGC5/Knickerbocker/Paul Coulombe failed to document a safety or congestion problem. The authors subsequently withdrew their safety claim. The independent evaluator employed by the town threw cold water on both claims, reducing the safety claim to a small number of “fender benders.” The selectmen have apparently dismissed the independent expert’s evaluation as if it didn’t exist. PGC5’s paid experts attempted to do the same at the most recent town meeting. Their rebuttal was totally unconvincing. YES ROUNDABOUTcontinues to claim in its Register advertisements that there is a safety issue.
Is there a safety problem? The only evidence is anecdotal, and it goes both ways. Anecdotal evidence is not a sound basis for a huge investment of taxpayer money ($1.5+ million) and a major alteration in the town’s infrastructure/appearance. It is impossible not to ask, why, given the above, our selectmen are so determined to push through the developer’s proposal? Why do they disregard the facts? They have no answers to the objections to the proposal other than to repeat falsehoods. My guess is that their arguments in support of the PGC5 proposal are rationalizations: they start by sharing Paul Coulombe’s vision for the town. And they have convinced themselves that it is a “bargain” for the town rather than a Trojan horse.
2. In response to my question, what guarantee does the Town of Boothbay have, if the revenue stream into the TIF from PGC5 decreases or ends before the town’s 20 year $1.5 + million bond issue is paid off, that the taxpayers will not have to pay the obligation through an increase in real estate taxes? The answer: No guarantee at all exists. There is no contract yet between the town and PGC5. The selectmen are asking the town to approve articles that will allow them to enter into a contract with PGC5 without any of the details of that contract available at this time. Will it contain a provision that requires PGC5 or some other party or entity to cover the costs of the bond issue if the revenue stream into the TIF declines or disappears? Or if PGC5 itself goes out of business? If that happens (if there is a fire, a death, an estate with no interest in Boothbay) the town will have to rely on the ordinary rules governing contracts. Those rules can be porous. It is commonplace for one party to a contact to break it in the expectation that, having considered the possible consequences, it is in its interest to do so.
There are numbers of reasons for voting no on articles 2, 3, and 4. But there are now two more in place: we have been misled, whether intentionally or not, about the content of the “State Route 27 Corridor Study” and there is not now and not likely to be a provision in the town/PGC5 contract to guarantee that the taxpayer will not in the end be stuck with paying the bond out of general tax revenue from our real estate taxes.
§5954. Corporate powersI. Accept gifts or grants of property, funds, money, materials, labor, supplies or services from the United States or the State or any other state or agencies or departments of those entities, or from any governmental unit or any person, and carry out the terms or provisions or make agreements with respect to any such gifts or grants, and do any and all things necessary, useful, desirable or convenient in connection with procuring, accepting or disposing of those gifts or grants; [1987, c. 737, Pt. A, §2 (NEW); 1987, c. 737, Pt. C, §106 (NEW); 1989, c. 6, (AMD); 1989, c. 9, §2 (AMD); 1989, c. 104, Pt. C, §§8, 10 (AMD).]
§5904. Liberal construction of chapter…This chapter shall be construed liberally to effectuate the legislative intent and the purposes of this chapter as complete and independent authority for the performance of each and every act and thing authorized in this chapter and all powers granted in this chapter shall be broadly interpreted to effectuate that intent and purposes and not as a limitation of powers. [1987, c. 737, Pt. A, §2 (NEW); 1987, c. 737, Pt. C, §106 (NEW); (emphasis added)
Once the public private partnership recieves voter approval, the terms of agreement which can then be negotiated are wide open.