Barrington resident: council too busy to manage Spencer trust

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

The head of the town’s Republican party believes a new group of people should be in charge of overseeing the Spencer Trust.

Steve Primiano, who serves as the chairman for the Barrington Republican Town Committee, attended the council’s November and December meetings and discussed the idea of forming a new board of trustees to oversee the multi-million fund that is designed to provide assistance to the “poor and unfortunate” of Barrington. Currently, the council serves as the board of trustees for the Spencer fund.

Mr. Primiano said the council does not have the time needed to properly execute the duties of the trust. He said the council has been in charge of the trust for the last seven years and in that time failed to create a process or an application that people could fill out to request money from the fund. He said the council has instead used the money mainly to purchase property for future affordable housing developments, cut loans for other affordable housing projects and pay administrative fees associated with affordable housing work.

“The conspiracy is that the money is being hoarded for affordable housing,” Mr. Primiano said.

June Speakman, the council president, defended the council’s decisions to dedicate Spencer money for affordable housing projects. She also said the council has approved the use of Spencer funds to help people through the East Bay Community Action Program.

During their early November meeting, some members of the council rejected the idea of handing over the reigns to the trust to a separate group of residents.

Mr. Primiano suggested a group of five people — including three representatives from local nonprofits that help the less fortunate — be assembled. He said the group of five would work with the town’s next finance director; Barrington is still in the process of hiring a new finance director. Mr. Primiano also suggested the group could act as an advisory board, forwarding requests to the council which would make the final decision.

“Basically, all the time-consuming leg-work would be done before it got to the council,” Mr. Primiano said. “It just makes sense.”

At the November council meeting, Steve Martin, the chairman of the town’s housing board, also suggested a change in oversight of the Spencer funds. He offered the housing board as a possible alternative to oversee the trust.

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