Milford selectmen clash with Brox Environmental Citizens leader

MILFORD – The leader of a local environmental group says Milford Selectman Mark Fougere acted inappropriately when he lobbied the Budget Committee in favor of earth removal at the Brox property.

Suzanne Fournier, founder of Brox Environmental Citizens, told selectmen last week that Fougere chastised the Budget Committee for not supporting the earth-removal warrant article, an article that failed in the town election. It would have allowed selectmen to sell resources from a portion of the 270-acre Brox property, which includes an old gravel pit.

The town Advisory Budget Committee did not support the article, with four of the nine-member committee abstaining from a pre-election vote.

At the May 12 selectmen’s meeting, Fournier told selectmen that Fougere had met with the Budget Committee after the election, and she said his comments were “heavy-handed” and “he reacted like a lobbyist might if a vote doesn’t go the way he expected.”

Selectmen and Town Administrator Guy Scaife defended Fougere.

Kevin Federico said the Budget Committee had made it clear that its problem with the gravel removal article was lack of information.

“That’s why Mark was upset. He thought he had answered all their questions,” he said.

But Fournier said that while talking to the Budget Committee, Fougere pointed out his own qualifications.

“Does this not sound like lobbying from someone whose career is land planning and development?” she asked.

Fournier said it was “heavy-handed of the selectman” to tell the committee “it does not make sense to leave it (the gravel) in the ground.”

The town administrator said there was no conflict of interest.

“He wasn’t gaining anything out of it,” said Scaife, who added that Fougere, the board’s vice chairman and a former Milford town planner, is considered a valued expert on land use.

Fougere said he had been invited to the Budget Committee meeting to answer questions, which prompted Fournier to object to the board allowing Fougere to explain himself.

“He has as much right to speak as you do to sit in that chair,” Selectman Mike Putnam said.

“I don’t necessarily see it as a reprimand,” said board Chairman Gary Daniels. “More as identifying a breakdown in communications.”

Prior to the tense exchange, Fournier read a description of the duties of an advisory budget committee, noting it should be independent.

“To me, he demonstrated disrespect for the independence of the Budget Committee,” she said.

Selectman Kathy Bauer agreed the committee should be independent, but one member of the Board of Selectmen expressing his opinion does not threaten that independence, she said.

Brox Environmental Citizens is a small group of people, most of whom live near the town-owned property, and Fournier has clashed with the board several times on the question of development.

A master plan for Brox calls for the southern section to be developed some day into sports fields, schools, cemeteries and other municipal facilities, and the northern portion sold.

The warrant article would have allowed resource removal for 20 years.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.