BRATTLEBORO -- The drive to build a privately-funded skatepark in Brattleboro has had as many ups and downs as a well-designed skatepark.
There have been sites chosen, and then reconsidered. Permits have been issued, and then expired. There have been designs put together, only to have the dimensions reduced. Now, as the town faces an uncertain financial future, the project is once again meeting opposition.
At Tuesday night's Selectboard meeting, when the board was discussing possible cost-saving measures to help bring down the tax rate, Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said he would not support a new skatepark, even though all of the construction is going to be paid for with private donations and grants.
"A town that can't afford to do core, emergency services infrastructure work, and core capital infrastructure work for emergency services certainly isn't a town that can afford other capital expansions," Gartenstein said at Tuesday night's meeting. "So at this point, although I think that the Skatepark Siting Committee can continue doing its work looking for a new site, I don't think that there's any reasonable possibility that we can consider expanding our capital infrastructure by adding a new skatepark facility in town until we can afford to pay for our necessary emergency services capital infrastructure."
After voters rejected the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget at a special referendum on April 17, the board was forced to go back and take a hard look at the town's priorities.
Gartenstein was the only one who mentioned the skatepark as a possible way of reducing spending in the coming year.
Skatepark advocates in Brattleboro have been working for more than a decade to find a suitable site for a public skatepark. Supporters thought they would be able to build a park at the Crowell Lot. When the permit they had for that location expired after three years of fundraising the Selectboard appointed a seven-member committee to look for the best location for a skatepark. The committee has eight locations it is exploring, and the committee members expect to make their final recommendation to the Recreation and Parks Board at its meeting on May 12. The Recreation and Parks Board will then present the recommendation to the Selectboard, which will have to approve any site selection.
During an interview Wednesday, Gartenstein said that even though the park would be built with private money, the facility would put pressures on the town's employees in maintenance and security.
"Any infrastructure expansion necessarily imposes a cost on the municipality," Gartenstein said. "I disagree that there would be no money involved with it. When a municipality is facing financial pressures you have to give extra scrutiny to any capital expansion."
The Skatepark Site Selection Committee members are next scheduled to meet on Tuesday, April 29, when they will meet at 5:15 p.m. at Living Memorial Park, before going to Crowell Lot for the final site visit.
On Thursday, May 1, the committee members will gather for what could be their final meeting, where they will rank all of the sites and come up with their final recommendations for the Recreation and Parks Board.
Recreation and Parks Director Carol Lolatte said she heard about Tuesday's budget discussion, which included proposals to cut the Recreation and Parks staff, but she did not want to comment on the meeting.
Lolatte said the Skatepark Site Selection Committee was given a task and the committee intended to visit the final two sites and then make its recommendations.
"They will complete the process and whatever happens after that, happens," she said. "The committee has been given a mission and they will complete their job."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.