Newfane does not need a new Town Office Building
Editor of the Reformer:
The people of the town of Newfane are being asked to vote on a $950,000 bond to build a new Town Office Building. I urge my fellow citizens to vote "No" on the bond issue.
While I have nothing but respect and admiration for the members of our Select Board and the valuable, difficult, and often thankless job they do for us, they, of course, are not perfect and can make a mistake. Asking for a bond for construction of a new Town Office Building is a mistake. IF there is any need for a new building — and as you'll see below, this is highly debatable — wouldn't the democratic course of action be to first ask the people if they agree? If the vote on the need for a new building were to pass, there would be plenty of time subsequently to vote on a bond issue. Instead the Select Board has concluded, without asking the public, that a new building is necessary.
Newfane does not need a new Office Building. And it certainly does not need an additional $950,000 of debt. And, realistically, does anybody believe that there won't be cost overruns in any major building project? Or that other town functions will require more taxpayer support in the coming years, too?
Literally all of the people in town with whom I've spoken agree that a new building is not needed. Many highlight an emotional attachment to the existing building having attended school there in its earlier incarnation. Others focus on the history of the current building and its importance in a town where the entire village is on the National Historic Register. Others bring up equally valid economic concerns, given our ageing population and the increasing number of people on fixed and limited incomes.
So, why is the Select Board pushing for a new building? For years members of the staff in the Town Office have complained about the facility. There are recurring complaints about mold. And yet each study that has been done, and that we the people have paid for, has concluded that there is nothing in that building that isn't in every other building in this part of Vermont. There are complaints about insufficient space and the lack of private offices. But complaints do not mean there really is a need for a new building.
For a couple of years, a committee of some of our fellow citizens — appointed by the Select Board — has studied the building and made recommendations for improvements, ranging from window replacement to heating and air conditioning. Each recommendation has been implemented and already paid for. What the committee has not recommended is a new building on top of all that has been invested in the current one.
Please come out and vote no on the new Town Office bond issue, either at the polls on Aug. 9 or by absentee ballot. And please also let the members of our Select Board know, by letter, email, or at a meeting, that it is absolutely wrong to push for a bond vote before getting an okay from the voters in the first place that they even want a new building. Thank you.
Gary Katz, Newfane, Aug. 1