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Letter: Conflicting friends

I am a Friends’ board member writing as an individual. The Friends’ of West County mission is to enrich the lives of seniors from “all 10 towns” Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Conway, Hawley, Heath, Plainfield, Rowe and Shelburne.

Personal agendas, misrepresentation and polarized ideologies are free radicals in Shelburne Falls. The root of one current dissension is the Friends’ $10,640 obligation. Chump change for Shelburne’s municipality with a $3,651,348 budget; a king’s ransom for the small Friends “fundraising volunteer” organization with a modest asset base.

Bing Waldsmith’s My Turn last month inspired me to elaborate on her referenced: “five Shelburne Senior Center board of directors packing the January 2013 Friends meeting.” These five appointed individuals created, presented and then voted for their own $10,640 proposed FY2014 Friends’ budget. Vote result: eight approved, six opposed. Five of those eight votes were Shelburne Senior Center Council on Aging board members (these individuals represent, report and are appointed by their respective Ashfield, Buckland or Shelburne selectmen; therefore, an arm of their town’s government). The Shelburne Senior Center director reports to this COA board. Conflict of interest? You decide.

Recently, Selectman Joe Judd informed Friends this $10,640 “budget” must be a “GIFT” to Shelburne’s “Operating Account.” On Feb. 25, Shelburne Selectman Judd stated, it is a slippery slope when you begin to depend on outside money from an “independent entity” to fund an “operating budget.” This $10,640 represents over one-third of the Friends’ available money.

In October, a Shelburne’s “GIFT account” was created for the Senior Center raising $5,000-plus. Paradoxically, Friends’ fundraising dollars are down $5,000-plus.

Robin Hood in reverse? You decide.

Many Friends’ members are an altruistic group, wanting to socialize, meet and provide programs for seniors from “all ten towns.”

This conflict is polarized in belief and power; probably ending when the money is gone.

MARILYN KELSEY

Shelburne Falls

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