Last week I promised a report on the public information meeting for the proposed municipal building that was held right before the regular meeting of the town board April 13. The big news is that the date has now been set for the public to vote 'yes' or 'no' on the project. That vote will take place June 15 at the Town Hall from noon to 8 p.m.
The projected cost now stands at close to $7 million, though we won't have to shoulder all of it by ourselves. Already, the town has a nearly $600,000 grant from the state which will help. My guess on the bottom line for your tax bill: This project will probably come in at somewhere between $1.30 and $1.80 per thousand of assessed value annually over 25 years. For more details, see the article in the next issue of the paper.
That money will buy us a chance to replace our badly outdated municipal facilities-town shed, school bus garage, fire departement, town offices-with one consolidated structure. Consolidating these functions in one location should offer significant savings in material and services as we go forward. But even if we vote no, we will still have to build expensive new facilities sooner rather than later for our school buses, our town trucks, and our fire department.
So the question as I see it is whether we address the problem on our own terms and with a plan to consolidate them, or address them at the last minute, piecemeal, because time has run out on us. The unpleasant reality is that the current aged, cramped, and run-down facilities are simply no longer workable-and yet we cannot do without the essential services they provide.
At the meeting April 13, Supervisor Dan Connell mentioned a couple of other immediate consequences if the project is turned down. First, the town would have to return the $600,000 grant it got from the state to begin planning the project. Second, the town agreed a while back to supply fuel for the school district and the fire department on a temporary basis, but that can't go on forever. So the school and the fire department will have to go it alone for fuel, which will also cost taxpayers money.
One other thing that struck me: Dan said all these things not as a dire warning about the future, but in response to a questioner who asked "What happens if the voters turn it down?" In fact, people had a whole bunch of questions (I counted more than 10) and all of them were excellent.
So, this is something that we have already been thinking long and hard about as a community. That process began with the committee that's put so much hard work into it so far: Dan Connell, Gordon Decker, John Gallagher, Alice LaRock, George Maffey, Jean Paquette, Jerry Sherman, Tim Sherman, Mike Tyler, and Marlene Westover. They've done a great job and deserve our recognition. But you-the people who turn up and ask questions-have done a great job, too.