OPINION: When it comes to investing in Meriden, the intangibles also count

OPINION: When it comes to investing in Meriden, the intangibles also count

Meriden may not be great, but how can Meriden not be great when Meriden has so many great things? I’ll admit “things” is not exactly the most, um, precise word, but I can’t think of anything better at the moment.

Anyway, “things” include Castle Craig, which is so great people actually run up to it. Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I was, twice, among the people to run up to it, during that annual fit of winter madness called the Bernie Jurale Tradition Run.

People do a lot more than run up to Castle Craig, of course. They hike, and perhaps in the spring stop to take note of vernal pools, habitat for precious species like some kind of salamander that I can’t think of specifically either at the moment. During something called a Bioblitz at the turn of the millennium, scientists identified many hundreds of species in Hubbard Park, sharing the joy of being in a great place with the humans.

What else? Well, notably, the golf course. Let’s call it Hunter Golf Club, because that’s what it’s called on the website, which also calls it Hunter Golf Course on the website. Hard to be specific, I guess. Some residents call it “muni,” because it’s the municipal golf course. In Montreal, they call the Canadians “Les Habs,” which means les habitants, which means our guys, the guys who are with us – loosely translated, I’ll admit. ‘Muni” is the same kind of insider term – it’s “our place.”

As such, it’s precious. As such, quite frankly, it’s great. It’s a widely admired municipal golf course. It would be admired even were it not located among the Hanging Hills, which lend a kind of magical touch, especially in the autumn, when the hills come alive with color.

So, yes, let’s be careful about how much money is spent on sprucing up the tent that’s next to the restaurant that anchors the golf course, the tent and restaurant that are part of “our place.” The late Walter Shamock, a City Councilor I admired greatly, was famous for saying no, because he was dedicated to protecting the taxpayer, but here’s one case when I would argue against that sentiment.

Another would be the public library, which could be great, and still might be though the odds are less because of an unwillingness to support it sufficiently. There are times when you ought to, quite simply, spend the money.

There was a lot of talk the other night about spending money. Matt Zabierek’s report in the R-J included a dizzying amount of facts and figures. At issue was how much to spend on the banquet facility next to Violi’s Restaurant, at the golf course. What type of banquet facility, and at what cost, has been a moving target for the last few months. You don’t want to spend a lot of money, but you don’t want a shack, is the dilemma. Somewhere in between is the solution.

Whether we’re any closer after the deliberations of the other night is hard to determine, but there was one bright light of perspective, brought by City Council newcomer Nicole Tomassetti. (At this point it would be tempting to add that Tomassetti’s candidacy received an editorial endorsement, but I supposed that’s not necessary – oops).

How much a return on investment approval of a banquet facility would bring was a focus of attention. “We’re being proposed a $1.5 million expense to lose $630,000 over 20 years, and I just need to answer some questions,” said Michael Carabetta, which seemed reasonable enough. Carabetta is also a council newcomer (who would have received an enthusiastic endorsement as well had he not been running against Cathy Battista, who also deserved support – anyway ...)

I’ll admit that I admired Tomassetti’s point because it did not depend on the slew of facts and figures that make your head spin. It’s also worth admiring because it makes a lot of sense. Here’s how Zabierek put it:

“Tomassetti argued a new facility would attract people and improve Meriden’s image – benefits that can’t necessarily be measured in a return-on-investment analysis, she said.”

Yep. It’s the intangibles that make a place great: the beauty of Mirror Lake in summer, a golf course in autumn, a castle to run up to in the winter. A jolt of hometown pride helps, an asset that can’t be measured by facts and figures as a city tries to revitalize itself.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com