I was just thinking about the current budget season. The budget process bursts forward in January and grinds along until the budget referendum in May. In the next few months, I will do my best to keep you informed and to offer my opinions. But if you care about your checkbook, you must do some of the work yourself, and watch the meetings and participate if you can.
Make no mistake – public comments at the meetings make a difference. Your taxes are going to go up and only you, the voters, will have the final say. I will do my best, as I have always done, to keep taxes as low as possible.
So let’s begin.
First, I am mad; exasperated actually. On Jan. 16, at the Public Works budget workshop before the Board of Finance, we heard a request to replace the track at Vanacore Field. A report was presented detailing a multitude of problems with this track (no one is quite sure how old it is), and two solutions were offered. First, a $250,000 basic resurfacing; and second, a $700,000 plan to dig it up, fix the problems underneath, and then resurface.
One BOF member was advocating for the $700,000 solution, and in the long run, that might be the fiscally prudent way to go.
We must do something about this track. I believe the track is unsafe, especially when you consider that middle school and high school students are running as fast as they can around this thing.
So why am I mad? Because the replacement of this track was included in the recent middle school building project, but it was never done. When you folks voted at referendum to approve $70 million for this project, it included the track. And now, the taxpayers are being asked to pay for it again.
You guys should be mad too.
But wait, there’s more. At the Jan. 19 fire department workshop, a request was presented for $60,000 to replace the 22-year-old generator at the fire headquarters. In 2012, at a referendum, the taxpayers approved $9.2 million for a fire department renovation project that was completed, sort of, in 2015. That project included a new generator for headquarters, but it was never done. And now, the taxpayers are being asked to pay for it again.
I will have much more to say about the fire department in the near future. Like last year, the fire department will be a focal point of this year’s budget season because of the requests for more trucks, and, most importantly, more personnel.
But let’s get back to the track for a minute.
It wasn’t until the Public Works budget workshop that I finally realized that the building committee failed in its obligation to provide a new track.
To be fair, in the past, I have commended the committee, overall, for this project. There is a lot to be proud of at our new middle school, and the committee members, all volunteers, worked hard. But with any major building project, there are always problems. The gym floor is a big one, and I’ve seen duct tape on the stairs of the new central staircase.
This $70 million project had a significant contingency percentage built in to cover unforeseen issues. The building committee’s failure to provide for the new track, as promised, should be unacceptable to the taxpayers of North Haven.
As always, if you have any comments, reasonable criticisms, or suggestions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The writer is a Town of North Haven Selectman.
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