WILMINGTON, MA — Kevin MacDonald, arguably the town’s most vocal critic and a 2015 candidate for Board of Selectmen, is getting slammed over his new Town Meeting warrant article to repeal the vote taken at the December Special Town Meeting to authorize the Selectmen to acquire the Ristuccia Arena.
At last night’s Planning Board/Finance Committee Public Hearing on the warrant articles, Kevin MacDonald stated his case.
“The entire episode [Special Town Meeting] at the Wilmington Middle School was really a disaster. People were given misinformation,” argued MacDonald.
MacDonald then appeared to provide the Finance Committee with 2013 tax returns for the Burbank Ice Arena in Reading, alleging the rink lost $165,000 that year and has “probably” lost over $1 million in its last 13 years.
“Many taxpayers are getting crushed who aren’t going to use the [Ristuccia] rink,” said MacDonald, who also claimed Wilmington Youth Hockey won’t be able to play its home games there and that the rink will need a lot of work due to its age.
“[The Special Town Meeting] was packed with youth hockey people. The deck was stacked against everybody. Let’s be honest,” concluded MacDonald.
Town Manager Jeff Hull responded: “I’m not sure what information Mr. MacDonald is using. He used some sort of falsified records at the Special Town Meeting. The Reading rink IS solvent. If you want to spin misinformation, you can do that.”
Selectman Mike Newhouse took MacDonald to task.
“Less than 3 months ago, the town of Wilmington held a duly called public meeting and, at the tune of 98%, voted to make this appropriation,” said Newhouse. “I am offended by the manner in which [MacDonald] tries to undermine everyone else’s first amendment right of the freedom of assembly.”
“[MacDonald] said many of these same things at the Special Town Meeting, where roughly 400 people took the time to attend, then [MacDonald] voted FOR the appropriation, so he could then try to play a parliamentary game to try to reconsider. If he thinks, for one minute, the [voters] will forget that and that they won’t be there again, he’ll be wrong again,” concluded Newhouse.
Several members of the Home Ice Advantage, an organized group of residents advocating for the town purchase of Ristuccia, were in attendance at last night’s meeting. The group sent out this email to supporters prior to the meeting:
Dear Friends and Supporters of a Wilmington Town-Owned Rink:
On behalf of Home Ice Advantage, thank you again for all that you did at the Special Town Meeting on December 4th to so clearly demonstrate to the Town of Wilmington, and to our town leaders, the steadfast commitment that we share to enhance recreational and athletic opportunities for our children.
Thanks to your support, at the December 4th Special Town Meeting, by a resounding vote in the affirmative, articles were passed to authorize and support the Town Manager and our Board of Selectmen to allocate funds, set up accounts, and enter into negotiations to acquire the Ristuccia Memorial Arena for the residents of our town. With an overwhelming vote of 391 to 7, we sent a clear message to the owner of the rink that we support the efforts of the Board of Selectmen and our Town Manager to pursue its purchase.
As discussed at the December 4th meeting, the current operator of the rink has a right of first refusal through May 2015, so it is the Town’s intention to contact the owner of the facility immediately thereafter, in order to make an offer on the property. At the time, given such an overwhelming vote with more than 98% of the voters supporting the initiative, it seemed the democratic process had paved the way for town officials to begin negotiations come June 1st.
Unfortunately, however, it has come to the our attention that twenty residents, only one of whom took the time to attend the Special Town Meeting on December 4th, have filed a petition article to be considered at this year’s Annual Town Meeting, to be held on May 2nd, to rescind the action we took on December 4th. The objective of this petition is to frustrate the Town’s goal of purchasing the Ristuccia Arena.
An unknown author once wrote, “Democracy is cumbersome, slow and inefficient, but in due time, the voice of the people will be heard and their latent wisdom will prevail.” We believe this to be true. We believe in the democratic process, and we believe in the citizens of Wilmington.
Please join Home Ice Advantage again in our resolve to support our young athletes, to finish what Wilmington residents started many years ago, and to ensure that our voice is heard once again. Please join us in defeating Article 54 at this year’s Annual Town Meeting.
To accomplish this goal, and make the acquisition of Ristuccia Arena a reality this year, we again ask for your permission to contact you with information about this effort to undermine our vote, and to have the ability to notify you personally when this important question is forced to another vote on May 2nd. Specifically, with fifty-six different articles being brought to Town Meeting, and with action on most of these questions being randomly selected throughout the course of the day, as required by law, we want to ensure that you have the opportunity to be present at the meeting when these important articles are brought before the assembly.
To that end, we intend to contact you again soon with instructions about how to obtain information leading up to the Annual Town Meeting, through a variety of media, including email, Facebook, Twitter, text notifications, etc. Please forward this information to any and all likeminded residents who support our vision to provide a much needed community resource, and just as importantly, to those who object to this abuse of the democratic process.
This Town voiced its opinion by a 98 to 2 margin just three months ago. Please help us prevent a simple majority of votes at this upcoming meeting on May 2nd from derailing the collective wisdom of this wonderful community.
Thank you again for your time and support.
Please click here to view the Town Meeting Warrant.
Home Ice Advantage
MacDonald. for his part, remains defiant. Here’s language from two of his Town Meeting articles:
Article 54 reads: To see if the Town will vote to repeal the vote taken at Special Town Meeting on December 4, 2014 on Article 1 and to vote to not authorize the Board of Selectmen to borrow money to acquire Elinor M. Rustuccia Memorial Arena and those properties identified as Town Assessor Map 44, Parcel 178 and Map 53 Parcel 155 and numbered 190 and 190R Main Street in Wilmington; or take any other action related thereto.
Article 56 reads: To see if the Town will vote to suspend all spending for the development of the proposed recreational complex at the former Yentile Farm property identified as 9 Cross Street on Assessors Map 39 Parcel 5 and to advertise in at least 4 newspapers and all other usual procurement advertising sites a request for proposal for private funding to build, manage, and lease 2 ice arenas to be built at 9 Cross Street.
The two ice arenas shall be leased from the Town of Wilmington for 30 years for one dollar. All funding, construction, and managing of the ice arenas shall be provided by private enterprise and not the Wilmington taxpayers. The lease agreement shall provide free ice time for the Town of Wilmington totaling 600 hours per year. This ice time shall be from the hours of 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The lease shall include adequate ice time to be given to Wilmington High School Hockey which shall have the first choice of the available ice times.
The Annual Town Meeting will be held on Saturday, May 2 at 10:30am in the Wilmington High School Auditorium.