letter to the editor

A material difference in numbers

Mon, 03/06/2023 - 3:30pm

Dear Editor:

According to the Register’s story of Feb. 28, Boothbay Harbor’s town manager ‘corrects’ my attorney’s (Collins) statement on legal fees. Collins had stated that the town spent $150k (on land use matters since November 2021) most of which went to the Newcastle Realty Building case and the ongoing dispute between the East Side Park and its neighbors.

The town manager told the selectmen that only $14k in fees were spent on these cases - a material difference.  

I went back through the detail provided by the town and summed the bills. Eliminating  duplication in those records, I total $78k worth of legal bills with clear attribution to these cases, and an additional $56k of legal bills posted generally that may have involved these cases. Just one example in the $56k was a $1,120 “travel fee” (@$400/hr) charged by the town attorney to get to a June Planning Board meeting.

The town manager’s statement of $14k, then, conflicts with her own records.    

We’ve forwarded the town’s source material to this newspaper with my spreadsheet.   

While I can understand the point made by the Chair of the Select Board that “we don’t check for accuracy during public forums”  the rest of his quote, “We don’t check the math. Let’s call this an honest mistake” may be too hasty. Given the magnitude of the these numbers, this disparity, and some alarming details, it may be a better idea that they do.  

Details do matter. Our entire case with the Newcastle Realty dispute was based on a complete lack of detail in the town’s permitting work.  The Maine Supreme Court agreed.  

It seems to this taxpayer that the essential point that Attorney Collins made to the town remains valid: Why not engage a professional planner (~$100/hr) to facilitate a rock solid case for commercial projects with the detail and process required by the ordinances rather than pay the town attorney $400+/hr to defend appeals when the town doesn’t do it right? 

Tom Myette

Southport and Boothbay Harbor