As I watch the things going on in our little town, I wonder where the priorities have gone.
Nine years ago as a newly registered Republican, it seemed it was time for a change. I worked with our local RTC to elect some of the finest men and woman I’ve had the good fortune to meet: Our friends and neighbors.
I believed in the stances we took. Taxes were rising too quickly, with little to show for it. A sewer project that should have never been started needed supervision and cost containment, an out-of-control high school project, a failing infrastructure, a senior center that was disgraceful, pension funds were seriously underfunded and seven schools in desperate need of upgrades.
Over the last eight years we’ve had steady, moderate and predictable tax increases, widespread road paving, equipment replacement for the safety of our public works employees and some restructuring of the staff in town. Our Grand List has grown, pensions are being addressed responsibly, and some smaller “town centers” now adorn our town. These are all reasons this administration was elected.
During that same time, we’ve implemented a great deal of new bonding. We’ve created several high paying positions and now a proposed $15 million community center/pool that our first selectman is fighting for while he puts six town properties on the block. I don’t remember those being campaign promises.
As we look at this year’s budget, the state is looking to towns and cities to fix the messes it created, including education cuts and shifting teacher pension obligations to the towns, potentially adding millions to our budget. That doesn’t include other possible tax hikes while the state cuts more services.
As each town department is told to cut 3.5%, we still have a push for a $15 million community center. Supposedly the senior center will work out of there as well. But why would we build a community center with a pool when we haven’t fulfilled the “needs” we promised over the last eight years?
A community center is a nice-to-have; another pool is a nice-to-have. Neither are necessities. This is the same argument we used when the previous administration wanted to add a pool to the high school project.
What are the necessities? Five elementary schools, two middle schools and an upgraded senior center. These need to be the priorities.
I am asking our Town Council to be brave, be the checks and balances, and to exercise some common sense. Do the same thing we asked of the previous administration. If you honestly believe this center is something the taxpayers want and are willing to support financially, let them tell you so. Put this on the ballot in November and let them decide. They deserve that respect.
Vote “No” on the community center and choose to send this to the people in town that must bear the burden of the cost.