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Citizens for Limited Taxation

Keeping an eye on social services Wednesday, July 27, 2005
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- A newly appointed study committee is ready to set its sights on local social service agencies and pursue voluntary payments to the town from the tax-exempt organizations.

The Board of Selectmen and Moderator Ed Noonan last night each appointed five members to the committee, which is set to meet for the first time next week to begin studying a payment in lieu of taxes program.

The group includes people who have denounced the expansion of social service organizations in Framingham as well as one Town Meeting member -- Dawn Harkness -- who told selectmen she is an "ardent supporter" of the agencies.

Selectmen also appointed a neighbor of the Winter Street nursing home, which the South Middlesex Opportunity Council plans to turn into a shelter.

In her letter to the board, Cynthia Laurora wrote that while the agencies provide needed services, Framingham residents have a right to know "what the relative costs are to the community."

"It's not meant to bash social services by any means," Laurora told selectmen last night.

Residents living around the nursing home urged Town Meeting in June to create the 10-member study committee.  They have formed Stop Tax Exempt Private Property Sprawl and have trained a spotlight on the non-profits ever since news surfaced of SMOC's shelter plans.

Town Meeting also called for the group to investigate the influence of social service agencies on the town, including financial and public safety impacts.  The committee is supposed to report back to Town Meeting in the fall, though its work may not be done by then.

Noonan announced his appointments last night after meeting with candidates privately.  They are: Town Meeting members Yaakov Cohn, Laurie Lee and Steve Orr, James Palmer and Nicholas Sanchez.

Selectmen voted by ballot on their five appointments after reading letters from the candidates and listening to brief remarks from some of them.  Besides Laurora and Harkness, the board voted to appoint: Town Meeting members Wes Ritchie, Bob Berman and Kurt Steinberg.

Ritchie, an aide to state Rep. Tom Sannicandro, D-Ashland, told selectmen he was excited to serve on the committee and uncover "facts to talk about instead of hysteria."

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