The big news, buried in the minutes of the last CIP meeting, is that the Selectmen are planning to make another run at a $4 million restoration project.
Last March, there was a non-binding referendum question on the ballot. It asked:
Do you support restoration of Brewster Memorial Hall to serve as Town Offices?
A majority of voters – 52% – said NO.
Do you favor rehabilitation of Brewster Memorial Hall by taxpayers as the sole financial support?
An overwhelming majority of voters – 81% – said NO.
The Selectmen have not had any public discussion as to the future plans for Brewster Memorial Hall. Nothing whatsoever. How is the decision to put $4 million dollars into the CIP being made?
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know exactly what each individual voter thinks or why they responded as they did on the referendum. But don’t you think it opens up some pretty serious questions about the viability of another $4 million project funded exclusively by taxes?
Folks, that was FIFTY-TWO percent that said NO! That was you, telling the Selectmen that this isn’t what you want to see. They don’t even have the courtesy to hold a public hearing to ask those 52% of voters to come in and say what they are thinking. They couldn’t care less.
I know from talking to many people, that this isn’t about spending money to restore Brewster Hall. It’s about not believing that it’s going to end up costing what they say. And they are so right.
Look at the projects that are ongoing: The fire alarm that was supposed to be $20,000 in the 2011 $4 million warrant is more than $30,000 now that they have properly bid it; The asbestos removal that was supposed to be $15,000 ended up being $21,000; The original price that they were using was from 2007! Replacements for just 24 of the 120 or so windows in the place that were budgeted at $21,000 now cost out at $49,000.
We keep hearing the same old BS. “This is the most studied building ever”. ” There won’t be any surprises”. “Construction costs are much lower now”. They continue to use the same architects who showed up last year with a phased construction presentation that had arithmetic errors resulting in the quoted price being off by $270,000!
I think a lot of voters feel as I do. The people that are promoting this project, while well intentioned, are just not competent. We have appropriated more than $800,000 to date and have virtually nothing to show for it. This project, if it’s going to go anywhere, needs more public vetting, and less public funding.