While we've all been busily emailing each other about the school budget, the town has been forging ahead with the proposed joint-use municipal building project, which will fold the fire department, the DPW, the town hall, and school bus maintenance into a single large facility on the site of the current town shed.
I've written about all this several times now, most recently in December, when Town Supervisor Dan Connell unveiled the proposed building plans at two public information meetings. As you probably know, this project has been in the works for eight years or so, after it became clear that each of the badly outdated current facilities needs to be replaced. The idea is to save money by consolidating the physical plant and sharing things like garage space and fueling.
The committee overseeing this project (which includes representatives from the Town Board, the School Board, and the Fire District) has now recommended the plan to the Town Board. The next step is that the Town Board has to vote on the bond issue to finance the project, which they're going to do so at their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 13.
But first they want to hear from you, the people of this fair town. So at 6:30 p.m. on April 13, before that regular meeting, there will be another public information meeting at the Town Hall, and members of the public are invited to come and ask questions.
Assuming that the bond issue is approved by the Town Board, the biggest change since December is that the committee has learned they can put the whole thing to a straight yes-or-no public vote later in June-the date will be announced at the April 13 meeting. (Earlier, it was thought that they'd have to wait 30 days to see if anyone petitioned for a "permissive referendum.") All registered voters will be permitted to vote, as long as they have registered at least 30 days before the vote. If the project is approved by the voters, the timeline, as before, is to break ground in the spring of 2011.
Another change is that the prospective bond issue now stands at around $7 million, which is about $1 million more than was proposed in December. The increase, Dan told me, comes from incorporating suggestions made by the public at the December meetings.
"The interesting thing to me," he said, "is that all these suggestions were about putting things back in that we had left out in order to cut costs."
I remember being struck by the same thing at the meeting I attended-instead of objecting to the cost as I expected, many people who spoke seemed willing to pay a little more for a better facility. The main improvement, which was suggested by several people, is that the plans now include radiant heat, which costs a bit more but will be more fuel-efficient, so it should pay for itself over time.