Trust Fund Targets 'Poor, Unfortunate'

The Spencer Trust Fund holds about $3.2 million; its income is to be used to benefit the poor and unfortunate in Barrington.

There is a trust fund in Barrington set up to “benefit the poor and unfortunate persons” who live in town.

It’s a fund that under the right circumstances, such as catastrophic damage and destruction caused by a hurricane like Sandy, could be used to provide food, shelter and transportation for people in Barrington who could have suffered a similar fate last fall if Sandy had plowed northeast instead of northwest into New Jersey and Manhattan.

The trust is officially known as the Amey Tucker Spencer Fund, better known as the Spencer Trust Fund. Right now, said Barrington Treasurer and Tax Collector Dean Huff, it holds about $3.2 million.

The Town Council and Huff as town treasurer serve as trustees of the fund. They met for the first time on Monday evening in an “annual meeting” called for in the by-laws approved last March.

The meeting set up the trust fund’s budget for next fiscal year, July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. And it elected officers: Town Council President June Speakman as president of the trust fund and Town Council Vice President Kate Weymouth as vice president of the fund.

Much of the meeting dealt with how the income from the fund should be spent. That income includes $80,000 for next year, although there is an additional $340,000 that has piled up, said Huff, since Barrington received $2.7 million after a lawsuit filed by heirs ended in 2005. 

Wilton H. Spencer set up the fund way back in 1936, said Town Solicitor Mike Ursillo. He briefed everyone on the history and mission of the fund, which could not come to the town until at least 21 years after the last obvious heir expired. 

Ursillo said the trustees may distribute the trust fund’s income to persons, charitable organizations or commissions or agencies in Barrington which meet the mission of the trust. Generally, he said, that means they must be serving anyone under the federal poverty level.

Recipient organizations must be able to deliver social services to the poor, including affordable housing, house repairs, transportation, meals and education.

But individuals or families who face “special and/or unique hardships” – such as  a Hurricane Sandy-like catastrophe -- also qualify, said Ursillo.

“That’s a perfect example,” he said. “Someone who has lost everything.”

Money would still have to be funneled through an appropriate agency, such as the Red Cross, which would be assisting Barrington residents, he said.

“The parameters of the fund are broad enough to cover something like that,” Ursillo said.

Right now, said Huff, the trust fund is distributing cash as follows:

  • up to $20,000 for housing repairs as a supplement to the Community Development Block Grant program,
  • up to $10,000 to the East Bay Center for mental health services,
  • up to $20,000 for the East Bay Community Action Program to specifically help Barrington residents,
  • and approximately $30,000 for trust management fees to Bank of America.

“The money has to go to an organization that has a mechanism to distribute the funds,” said Huff. “Someone just can’t walk in and ask for cash.”

Gary Morse January 30, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Lorraine, The town records are somewhat incomplete and hard to follow (e.g. credit listed where no prior debit was entered to credit against). But here is a rundown of the Walker Farm math. June 1, 2007 – Paid from Amey Tucker Spencer Trust Fund $10,000 to Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage for “Barrington Land Trust – House on County Road”. November 14, 2007: Town of Barrington purchases land from Frank, Richard & Raymond Souza at 562 & 568 County Road, Plat 16 lot 31. Constitutes 78,999 sq feet, 1.8 acres. The town paid $500,000 via a town CDBG grant from the state that was applied for by our Town Planner, not by West Elmwood Housing. In short, taxpayers owned the Walker Farm land. 11/12/07 thru 9/25/09 - Town takes money from the Spencer Trust Fund to cover development costs of the West Farm land. Total amount removed was $146,463 which includes the payment to Coldwell Banker above. West Elmwood Housing returned to the Trust Fund $123,243.71 As previously mentioned, there are credits back with no corresponding debit making an exact accounting difficult to determine, but it appears to be around $16,000. The land that the town owned and developed for around $640,000 was later sold to West Elmwood Housing for $1
steve martin January 30, 2013 at 03:51 PM
As I was involved in this process from start to finish let me try and clear things up again. The parcel on county road was purchased by the town for $500,000 for the development of affordable housing. The $10,000 check paid in June 2007 was earnest money held in escrow. The land was paid for with a $500K bridge loan from RI Housing @6% interest. At closing the title was transfered to the town and the $10,000 was repaid to the spencer trust. The developer was given a $160,000 credit line from the spencer trust for pre-development costs. They drew down $123,244 and later re-paid this. It was a no interest loan. The balance of $23,219 was paid to two environmental firms for level 1 and 2 inspections. This was a direct grant to the project and was not repaid. The town applied for and recieved two CDBG awards totalling either $500K or $525K, I don't recall which. These grants were specifically for affordable housing development. They were used to pay down the loan to RI Housing. After the non profit developer was selected, the land was transfered to them for $1 after being approved at the financial town meeting. To answer Terry's question, call East Bay Community Development Corp in Tiverton for assistance questions.
Manifold Witness January 30, 2013 at 03:52 PM
“There’s never been an application, there’s never been a first come first served.” Jeffrey Brenner, March 12, 2012 It’s kind of a mystery, Terry, but ask the Town Treasurer for an application. He is a Trustee. It would seem that a formal application process should have been put in place back when the lawsuit was settled in early 2005. Let us know how it goes. ;-)
Manifold Witness January 30, 2013 at 03:57 PM
East Bay Community Development Corp does not administer the Amey Tucker Spencer Trust fund. The Amey Tucker Spencer Trust fund was left to the Town of Barrington and the income of which SHALL BE USED ANNUALLY to help the poor and unfortunate people of said town of Barrington. The 6 Trustees are the Barrington Town Treasurer and the Town Councilors.
Gary Morse January 30, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Terry, Where we are today is that if you have an emergency home repair, and a person is income eligible, call Phil Hervey, Town Planner in the town hall (247-1900). There is grant money available outside of the Spencer Trust. If it is another emergency, call East Bay Community Action Program, 847-7821 It may be that the money EBCAP administers for the trust is already spent. If it is, please contact one of the town council members to let them know. The council needs to understand that their prior direction to use most of the Spencer Trust for big ticket affordable housing projects that do not serve the community is the wrong way to go. You would be shocked at how much money has gone into the affordable housing boondoggle that came out of the Spencer Trust. It was not designed for that purpose.
Manifold Witness January 30, 2013 at 04:01 PM
"Up to $20,000 for housing repairs as a supplement to the Community Development Block Grant program"? How does the CDBG program work in Barrington vs other municipalities? Barrington taxpayers pay the Town Planner to do all the grant applications, reports, etc. CDBG money is awarded. Some CDBG money funnels through Barrington to CHLT (a municipal consortium of sorts) to benefit towns that are NOT Barrington. And CDBG money goes to affordable housing developers. (Is that how the town plans to fill up the expensive new Middle School?) The stated “needs” in the CDBG applications - “Workforce housing”, “local needs” &“needs of the elderly are significant in Barrington”. Each municipality is supposed to address LOCAL needs of local folks who already live there - NOT force LOCAL (municipal) taxpayers to subsidize developments to import folks from other towns. State CDBG money should be used by the municipality to revitalize its neighborhoods - as East Providence did to rehab a house for a wonderful EAST PROVIDENCE family. East Prov publishes public information on how it works: http://www.eastprovidenceri.net/content/666/738/746/778/1183/default.aspx Barrington pays a Planner to get CDBG money for developers. An overbuilt town like Barrington should conserve trees as ardently as plastic bags are conserved. The dwindling base of taxpayers paying “full boat” of the too-high taxes can’t afford what this government is doing.
Gary Morse January 30, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Steve, The Spencer Trust is not a vehicle providing "credit lines" to affordable developers. If you told the Attorney General that the Trust was providing credit lines to any group, you would have a lot of difficult explaining to do. It is also a fact that the record of draw downs from the Spencer Trust to support the Walker Farm project exceeds $123,244 making the $1 purchase price by West Elmwood Housing of greater benefit than $123,244. I talked with the Barrington town officials to assure the proper steps on accessing the Spencer Trust and at no time was the East Bay Community Development Corp. mentioned. As far as approval by town residents on the transfer of the Walker Farm land at the town meeting, that's usually done when everybody just wants to go home and could care less. It doesn't make it right for the town.
Lorraine F January 30, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Mr Martin, Sorting through the back and forth between you and Mr Morse, I'm now adding up what appears to be the acknowledged damage to the Spencer Trust fund that had nothing to do with helping the poor and unfortunate people of Barrington "under the federal poverty level" (Mr. Ursillo's definition). Your above post says it is a "$23,219 grant from the Spencer Trust fund paid to two environmental firms for level 1 and 2 inspections." Could you please explain how a $23,219 "grant" from the Spencer Trust Fund for "level 1 and 2 inspections" helped the poor and unfortunate people residing in Barrington? Am I missing something here?
Barbara Donovan January 30, 2013 at 08:23 PM
Good morning all --- I feel so enlightend - I had never heard of the Spencer Fund before a few weeks ago - what a sheltered life I have lived - here in Barrington a little over 50 yrs and learned something new !! Guess I spent too much time driving kids all around to their activities !! Well, I digress ---- I know a gentleman in town, (about 40 yrs.) who is in dire need now of financial help. Lost his wife many years ago, suffered a stroke about 5 years ago - lives on almost nothing and needs help to keep his house from falling down around him!! If the Spencer Fund, or some other fund is available, I would love to know so I might be able to help this gentleman. Barbara (PS - obviously he is a senior- one of many who silently struggle).
Gary Morse January 30, 2013 at 09:33 PM
Barbara, It's no surprise the Spencer Trust went under the radar for so long. Since 2005 when the Trust was turned over to the town, approximately 80% of all the distributions have been to support two affordable housing projects - Walker Farms and the George St. Like yourself, I know many who are in immediate need, AND ARE LONG TIME RESIDENTS! The fact that this fund went hidden for so long, and used primarily to support political agenda's, is a town scandal. Let me know if I can help.
Barbara Donovan January 31, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Let's all go to the meeting at the library on Monday, Feb. 4th and talk to Rep. Joy Hearn - she is our State representative - she wants to hear our feelings on current items - perhaps she will help us !! Put it on your agenda --- Barbara
Barbara Donovan January 31, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Joy Hearn's meeting is from 6 - 7:30 - Plan on it !! Barbara
steve martin January 31, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Hello Lorraine and sorry for the delay in answering your question. With the latest sale, there are now eight families living at Walker Farm. Every one of them has invested in our town by buying their homes, not renting, they have invested their own money. Every one of them is lower income, 5 are under 80% AMI and 3 are under 100% AMI. And every one of them is a Barrington resident. In my mind I can't think of a more appropriate use of the Spencer Trust. I hope this answers your question.
Barbara Donovan February 01, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Steve - how much is 80% AMI and 100% AMI in real dollars ? Barbara
Gary Morse February 01, 2013 at 06:41 PM
Steve, Other than two residents in Walker Farms, the remainder were not from Barrington per the deed on file in the town hall and thus did not comport to the terms of the will requiring that help only be provided to "people of said town of Barrington" The will does not say "people soon to be living in Barrington". But even more disturbing, if Area Median Income is the benchmark set for those who can obtain financial benefit out of the Spencer trust, this is not consistent with Mr Ursillo's comment - "that means they must be serving anyone under the federal poverty level". The AMI (around $65,000 annual household income) is a long way from the federal poverty level (around $20,000 for a family of three). http://barrington.patch.com/articles/trust-fund-targets-poor-unfortunate I cannot think of a worse use of the Spencer Trust than to be squandering it on people making $65,000 per year in household income when truly needy residents of Barrington have been largely ignored since 2005. It is my hope that all prior wasteful spending of over 80% of the Spencer Trust can ultimately be recovered by the Trust through any means necessary.
Gary Morse February 01, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Barbara, AMI is around $65,000 in annual household income. The Housing Board of Trustees have not maintained sufficient record keeping so you won't find any documentation on how this project actually fits to the terms of the Trust. You remember June Speakman's comment on December 18, 2012 "We can't afford to provide legal support to the Housing Board". They have largely been making this stuff up as they went along.
Barbara Donovan February 01, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Gary - I guess your comment got in before mine, but you have answered my question - are you sure of that amount --- $65,000 ? In income, per year ? What is 100%? And why would 100% qualify for assistants if it is the mean? Poverty level ?? I know a lot of people who don't have that much income and live quite well. This picture looks worse and worse !! Barbara
Gary Morse February 01, 2013 at 07:25 PM
Barbara, Here is the exact "HUD" answer to your question on AMI http://www.rhodeislandhousing.org/filelibrary/HOME_RI%202012%20income%20limits.pdf Family size 100% AMI 1 $52,937 2 $60,500 3 $68,062 4 $75,625 5 $81,687 6 $87,750 7 $93,812 8 $99,875 Note that HUD ignores money a person(s) have in the bank. You could have a $ million in the bank and still be eligible for affordable housing because it is based on annual household income criteria only.
Manifold Witness February 01, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Gosh, Steve, of course they are all Barrington residents - now. And, as you state, you've been "involved in this process from start to finish". The minutes of the "Housing Board of Trustees" speak volumes on that point. Is someone helping you draft your funny comments? Or is it all just your own personal opinion? Either way, it's an eye-opener.
Barbara Donovan February 01, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Steve - According to the MLS service, there are 3 remaining for sale at Walker Farm. Barbara
steve martin February 01, 2013 at 09:57 PM
I appreciate your compliment as to my comedy, these are just my personal opinions, I speak only for myself. Barbara, there were originally eleven homes for sale, eight have sold and three remain.
Gary Morse February 01, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Barbara, Taking the Spencer Trust Fund controversy one step further, below is the affordable housing 100% AMI income qualification levels (first column) vs the actual federal poverty income level (second column) based on family size. 1 $52,937 $11,170 2 $60,500 $15,130 3 $68,062 $19,090 4 $75,625 $23,050 5 $81,687 $27,010 6 $87,750 $30,970 7 $93,812 $34,930 8 $99,875 $38,890 From 2005 to the present, 80% of the Spencer Trust Fund resources were directed to those in the first column, while those in the second column (the poverty range) were given the 20% financial crumbs. I have been told that the small amount provided this year to the East Bay Community Action Program from the Spencer Trust is already used up. There remains over $300K in this account that can be distributed. An investigation is warranted.
Barbara Donovan February 02, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Steve - how many rentals at Walker Farm and how much is the rent ? Barbara
Lorraine F February 02, 2013 at 12:05 PM
Mr Martin, The Housing Board of Trustees have acted as if there is no financial hardship in Barrington. If it is correct that money has been withheld from those in need to finance affordable housing projects, that is something that does need an investigation. As Chairman, you need to spend some time over at EBCAP before you make any further decisions on the Spencer Trust. And if you won't, may I suggest you submit your resignation from the Housing Board of Trustees, a term I now use loosely. What were you thinking?
Manifold Witness February 02, 2013 at 02:22 PM
"You had a Superior Court judge who actually made some ah flip comment that ‘well I’m not sure that there’s any needy in Barrington’ which I would disagree with". Jeffrey Brenner, March 12, 2012 Town Council meeting
steve martin February 02, 2013 at 03:24 PM
Barbara, there are eleven homes at Walker Farm. Ten are single family homes, the other is a single family with a one bedroom apartment attached to the main house. I am guessing but I believe the rent is around $750. Lorraine, thanks so much for the career advise. In any case, we are not the trustees of the spencer trust, not our role. Nor is it our role to deal with folks who need fuel assistance or any other short term help. Our role is housing, for people in all income ranges. We were asked to review EBCAP's request for funding twice and unanimously approved their request for the full amount THEY requested. The Housing Trust has in the past used money from the spencer trust to further our work in housing (as outlined earlier in this blog). We make requests to the spencer trustees and they can approve or decline our request. As to your contention that money has been intentionally withheld from those in need, HUH?? Show me one single incident where a request to the spencer trust from a needy person or group was turned down. Hope this clears things up a bit.
Lorraine F February 02, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Mr Martin, From 2005 until now, the Spencer Trust appears to have been a closely guarded secret during the worst financial crisis since the great depression. Some residents that Mr Spencer would have intended to help appear to have gone empty handed in favor of big government spending. Now you want to comfort yourself by advancing the debate to the absurd level of "intentionally withheld". I didn't choose that phrase, you did. Of course I know that nothing was "intentionally withheld". The issue is this - What should you have known in your position as Chairman, and what action did you choose to take as Chairman. "HUH??" is hardly the response of a man of action and intelligence.
Manifold Witness February 02, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Mr. Martin would have us believe that every request made by a needy person or group for money from the Amey Tucker Spencer Trust fund or for CDBG funds has been granted. Maybe so, Mr. Martin - show us your records. Show us the list of requests, the date, how the requests were made, the amount of the request, residency at the time of the request, etc., and then show us the amount granted and the motions and votes from your minutes. Maybe you can. Now, Mr. Martin, address the flip side of all that - issues related to Barrington residents who were poor & unfortunate who could have been helped by these funds - but they of course didn't know anything about the funds- or to ask. As Mr. Brenner said (3/12/12), there was no application process for the Spencer Trust. Taxpayers pay the Planner to get grant money for developers to build houses that the taxpayers will subsidize (mostly for out-of-towners). As we can see, it's not as though the Trustees or Mr. Martin's "Housing Board of Trustees" were forthcoming with correct information. The folks over at Tap-In didn't seem to know anything about this money & that would have been kind of an obvious place to start, no? Mr. Martin uses that funny technique of saying over and over that he believes his guesses are "clearing things up". As though the readers are all confused and he's enlightening them as to the truth. Now that's LOL funny. The real problems with what's been going on? Priceless. And not funny at all.
Barbara Donovan February 02, 2013 at 09:59 PM
Seems to me that there was no "list" or place to "sign up" for Barrington residents at any of the affordable housing that has been built to date. If there are some living in either of them, it was accidental, or they had a contact. Actually, the "so called list" for Palmer Pointe, is full already and the project has not even been approved . Developers don't know how many on the list are from Barrington - and yet there is "a long" list. These units have been in the news for months now and where was the sign up list in Barrington. Perhaps a "pocket list" from the developers ?? The developers seem to know how and where to find money and sign up customers. Wonder how many are using the Spenser Fund -- will we ever know? Why do the elected members of the Town Council, all the members of the Planning Board, Housing Board of Trustees and Town Planner, allow this to happen. Does anyone tell the truth anymore ?? How will the owners of the land at Blue Meade Farm sell lots and "fit in" 3 affordable units? How much will they cost? How will they be subsidized? Who has the answers to that? And - where is the help for Barrington seniors of all incomes going to live when they wish to "scale down".
Gary Morse February 03, 2013 at 12:57 PM
The Spencer Trust has a big problem. The Trust is still sitting on over $300,000 in available funds, but there is no mechanism for a resident to actually make a request. The small amount provided to EBCAP for 2013 is already gone. And according to the Housing Board of Trustee's Chairman, the Housing Board doesn't get involved with actual requests other than to review them (so how have prior resident requests been made?). According to Town Clerk, Linda James, there is no form that can be filled out for a resident to make a request. Barrington has a Trust that currently contains around $300,000 in available funds to "help the poor and unfortunate" in Barrington, where all of the 2013 funds sent to EBCAP are already gone, and there is no form that a resident can fill out to actually make a request. The issue is that there should be no further accumulating of funds in the Spencer Trust to promote the state mandated affordable housing agenda which to date has consumed 80% of the spending. This benefits people who are neither poor, nor are residents of Barrington.


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