Amherst Selectmen take issue with letter

AMHERST – Selectmen Monday night took exception to a letter to the editor in a local newspaper by Selectman John D’Angelo.

In a long letter in the January issue of the Amherst Citizen D’Angelo wrote about his efforts to create a road plan and to use surplus funds to bring taxes down.

Chairman Dwight Brew said the letter doesn’t tell the whole story on either issue.

The board has worked at making sure issues are discussed only at board meetings, so residents have the opportunity to hear all sides, he said, and it’s better when the board issues majority and minority opinions.

“I in no way think minority views should be stifled,” he said, but when a board member goes off on his own, facts can be taken out of context.

D’Angelo said the article was an effort at persuasion on two issues that matter to voters.

But Vice Chairman Peter Lyon told him that “at the very least let the board know ahead of time, so it’s not caught flat-footed.” He also objected to D’Angelo taking credit for the road plan and D’Angelo acknowledged the error.

On the issue of the town’s surplus used as a rainy day fund, Brew said they follow the recommendations of two government agencies that advise municipalities to keep between 5 and 17 percent in the fund balance for unexpected expenses. Amherst’s 10 percent “is a little on the conservative side,” he said, and for D’Angelo to write that the town has taken $4 million more in tax money than is needed “is very misleading.”

D’Angelo, who had lost on that argument on a 4-1 vote, argued that Amherst has more surplus that it ever had since 2012 and $1.2 million should be sent on the bridge program.

“Holding on to money we have is not necessarily the best answer,” he said. “Enough people have talked to me about the tax burden … “I have to believe enough people care about the issues not to let them drop.”

The town budget hearing is Monday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the selectmen’s meeting room, and the Deliberative Session is on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Souhegan High School theater. Election day is March 12.

“Let’s make sure if we put something out there” all sides are represented, Brew said, with all the facts so “reasonable people can understand the issues.”

Kathy Cleveland may be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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