PHOTO: Alderman Ben Dilks (left) delivers a letter to town attorney Todd Moore on Tuesday night during Thompson’s Station’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting. / Photo by Alexander Willis
BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
Tensions were high during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Thompson’s Station Board of Mayor and Aldermen, in which accusations of misconduct were levied against Alderman Ben Dilks, following the release of a letter to parts of the community.
The letter, drafted by Dilks, was sent to Thompson’s Station residents living in proximity to the Canterbury subdivision back in June. The letter pledged that Dilks and Alderman Graham Shepard would never vote to approve a wastewater treatment plant on a piece of property bordering the Canterbury subdivision.
The argument against Dilks’ actions were that the letter was composed and mailed for personal and political gain, and that since it featured the town’s logo in the letterhead, had misrepresented itself to have been approved by the board in its entirety.
Dilks argued that informing the public about public decisions of the board does not need approval, and should be considered official business.
“I do not believe this is an official correspondence of the town,” said town attorney Todd Moore during the meeting.
“How could it not be?” asked Dilks.
Moore replied, “This is not a piece of paper that was approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.”
On two separate occasions, Alderman Dilks has previously made a motion for the board to publically pledge not to approve a wastewater treatment plant on the purchased property. Both times, the board failed to pass the motion.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, the board discussed and eventually passed a resolution that would officially adopt the town logo of Thompson’s Station, restricting its use to town officials and employees conducting official business.
The newly passed resolution states that use of the official town letterhead “implies town approval and authority,” and that unauthorized use of the letterhead by town officials would be deemed “an improper and illegal use of town property.”
The resolution passed 3 – 2.
The town of Thompson’s Station agreed to purchase 170 acres of land for roughly $3 million back in January for the purpose of its wastewater management facilities. The town currently uses a drip irrigation system for wastewater. Waste is filtered, cleaned, and dripped into the soil, and requires a much larger area than traditional wastewater treatment plants.
According to Dilks, the town had rallied support for the land purchase on the pretense that it would be used for drip irrigation, not for a traditional water treatment plant.
“I get that a sewer treatment plant is a necessity, and needs to be somewhere in town,” Dilks said. “But the issue here, is you told people that it was going to be drip field, and no way a sewer treatment plant, to rally support behind purchasing this land, and now you’ve got to follow through on that promise.”
In an email sent to Joe Consentini, the former town administrator who left his position on June 22 in lieu of a new job, a Canterbury resident asked if the construction of a redundant sewer treatment system was one of the factors in purchasing the property.
Consentini replied that “the land at Canterbury is simply not an option for this.” He added, “as we’ve said all along, the property being purchased by the town is to be used as drip fields.”
That email was sent sometime in December of 2017. A transcript of the email as obtained by the Home Page can be viewed in its entirety below.
Dilks said that some city officials, including Consentini, continued to say a traditional wastewater treatment plant was never on the table for the property.
“They went that far to say they never talked about it, which is a lie,” Dilks said of some of the city officials.
Dilks has since produced a recording of an August 2017 meeting, in which Consentini can be heard saying “there may be some other opportunities for a future wastewater plant,” in reference to the property, which at the time of recording, was not purchased yet.
“I thought it was important, and people were asking for it,” Dilks said about the pledge to not build a traditional wastewater treatment plant. “Only Alderman Shepard and I were willing to vote and sign that pledge.”
“They had two opportunities to join me in signing that pledge, so I really don’t see the issue,” Dilks said, talking about the other members of the board. “All I did was tell people that they didn’t sign the pledge – what are you angry about? If you’re angry about it, sign the pledge. The only explanation of that is they don’t like me telling people what they’re up to.”
The next public meeting of the Thompson’s Station Board of Mayor and Aldermen will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11. It will be held at the Town Community Center.
Below is the letter drafted by Dilks in its entirety as obtained by the Home Page.