In the ongoing discussion of the proposed municipal building in Middlebury, which tentatively has a bond vote set for December, an important assurance was made this week by the selectboard: It would delay the vote if it feels residents are not adequately informed.
“We’ve told the (municipal building) steering committee and our design-build team that if the December date is not realistic, then tell us, and we will wait,” selectboard Chairman Dean George said in a story in today’s Addison Independent (see Page 1A). “We will postpone it until whatever time we think it’s best to have the project ready for everybody to understand completely and have a well-founded decision on whether they would support it or not. I certainly don’t want it rushed through as (opponents) are implying.”
Dean was referring, in part, to requests to provide detailed information to the Mary Hogan school board outlining how the proposed recreational facility would dovetail with the school’s mission. The selectboard has been working on gathering that information and bringing the school board up to speed since the proposal was first broached as a possibility last spring. The request for such information is reasonable and expected, and the town is working hard to comply as quickly as possible.
No delay has been intended. Here’s the context to recall:
• Town committees were established two years ago to figure out what to do with the deteriorating, fuel-hog of a municipal building. A steering committee was formed, of which Ruth Hardy, president of the ID-4 board, was a member recruited to represent the school and keep that board informed.
• When the current proposal to fund the municipal building came forward this spring — wherein Middlebury College officials were approached by the town and replied with an offer to help finance $5.5 million of the $7.5 million project — the selectboard opted to flush out the essentials and put the proposal to a vote.
• Since then, they’ve had to educate the public, put the project out to bid, hire the architects and builders to get details on design and costs, and keep updating the public with that information as it becomes available. The board has moved with due haste.
Knowing all this was in the wings, ideally, many of the 13 questions posed to the town by the school board this past week might have been pursued earlier this summer. But no matter. Most questions are easy enough to address.
Certainly the school board should see the latest plans and understand how the proposed facility will fit within the existing site. Also, how the proposed building will affect traffic flow and nearby wetlands, and how grounds and facility maintenance will be resolved are important issues to hash out.
Most exciting for the school community is how recreational programming at the new facility could be meshed with school functions to best serve the students. That’s where parents of students and directors of those programs — particularly the after school programs that serve those very students — should be elated.
The good news is that the school board agrees — for the most part. As Hardy says, “Obviously, it’s public property and we want to work with the town for the betterment of the entire town.” That they have a responsibility to consider how it affects the school first is a given.
Our surprise is that members of the school board are not more enthusiastic that a new recreational facility will be built at a low cost right next door. Common sense tells most town taxpayers that one building serving multiple purposes and located in the town’s existing recreational center is a good deal.
Hopefully, once the school board is able to digest more of the details, they’ll agree and give the project its endorsement.
Angelo S. Lynn