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September 16, 2013

Salem selectmen hit with waiver requests

Some Salem selectmen are weary and leery

SALEM — It’s becoming a sign of the times.

Cash-strapped nonprofit organizations are asking town officials to waive mandatory fees that commercial entities consider part of the cost of doing business.

In the last three weeks, selectmen have been approached by two groups seeking waivers, prompting lengthy debates over whether bad precedents would be set if the requests were granted.

First, SalemFest organizers asked for permission to post several dozen signs advertising the annual event in town rights-of-way. Then, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem requested a waiver of permit fees for a temporary storage trailer.

Selectman Patrick Hargreaves was reluctant to honor the club’s request, afraid it would lead to other nonprofit organizations getting in line to receive financial breaks.

“I think we’re going down a very slippery slope if we start waiving permit fees,” Hargreaves told fellow selectmen last week.

Hargreaves noted that the club called itself a “struggling nonprofit” in its letter to the town.

“I can’t vote for this,” he said. “I want to make sure the Boy Scouts, the Field of Dreams and all the other nonprofits are getting the same treatment. “

Boys & Girls Club board member Sonny Tylus had asked selectmen to waive $110 in electrical and building fees. The Planning Board had already granted the club permission to keep the donated trailer on the property for a year.

The trailer was donated to Geremonty Drive club by Victorian Park owner Larry Belair, who recently retired and closed his business after more than two decades.

Selectman James Keller said he had no problem granting the request since the trailer would only be temporary.

But Hargreaves still wasn’t satisfied.

“There is no guarantee they’re not going to come back to the Planning Board year after year after year to make it a permanent structure,” he said. “We have had storage containers on property for 10 to 15 years.”

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