Priorities, procedures, and politics

“Bonding two projects for 9 million to build things that we have never had while our existing infrastructure is crumbling is kind of like living in a house that is falling down while taking out a loan to buy a new Cadillac.”  Jim Miller

I’m not against the idea of having a community center. I’m not against the idea of a new public works building. I am against the method being used to fast track these projects when we have so many other infrastructure needs of higher priority. I realize the appeal of a fun, exciting project, but I’m very suspicious how so many people including our Selectmen and Budget Committee have drank the KoolAid to support this project at lightning speed, when it is not in the best interest of the Town to do this right now.

Our Selectmen and Budget Committee usually do a great job of separating the needs from the wants while keeping the tax burden a high priority. There was a CIP (Capital Improvements Committee)  created to study the needs of the Town going forward. A vision and plan was created to address these costs in a way that kept a throttle on the tax payer burden. You can see it here.

We need road repairs. We need bridges fixed. We need to maintain our buildings and water and sewer systems. Shingles are falling off the Town Hall and windows are rattling! These are regular topics of discussion. The CIP addresses them…..very slowly. Why does a new gymnasium get to jump the queue?

Effective government consists of established procedures to complete major projects. Following the process allows full public participation and ensures that the money spent is returned to the community to the greatest benefit of all.

Step 1: the idea comes forth. We already have one and it sounds like it could receive some support. Contrary to what some are claiming, I never heard about these new buildings until a few months ago. The residents actually voted down a warrant article to buy a rec building a few years ago.

Step 2: If there is enough community support, a warrant article is created to ask the voters to fund a design plan for the project. Architects are hired and public meetings are held so that everyone can share their ideas for the concept. A Community Center should be a community project, not a department project.

Step 3: Once a real plan is created, bids and /or estimates are requested. After that, we have a real cost for the project.

Step 4: Once we have a plan and a real cost a warrant article is created asking the voters if they want to fund the project. This might include bonding it or some other way of funding.
If it passes, the project begins.

The current proposal is completely backwards. It’s give us the money first and we will figure it all out later. There is no real architectural plan. It’s just a concept drawing. Consequently, we don’t even know the real cost.

Regarding the proposed public works building, there may be a real need there. I would rather see a study with the feasibility of upgrades and cost comparisons before we move forward.

The interest cost of the debt over the life of the loan was estimated at about 4 million. Heating, lighting, cleaning and maintaining a new, very large building will be added expenses. What about additional staff? All those expenses will be added on top of the debt cost. It was being promoted that the extra tax on a $400,000 home would be about $170 a year……just for the debt. 

Call me a buzzkill and I will agree with you. The truth is I am a realist. I wish I could support what is proposed but the timing and methods used to convince us to part with our hard earned money, during a tough economy, without all the facts does not align itself with good government practice.

Giving these projects first priority and a pass on the governmental process is not the way our system works. You don’t get to jump your project ahead of the others just because you may have political connections. It’s time to step back, wait for the smoke and mirrors to clear, and have these projects take their turn in the process like everything else.
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One Comment

  1. Natalie Kelley said:

    EXCELLENT article! Spot on! Thank you for speaking the truth Mr. Miller!

    January 30, 2022

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