Careful what you ask for

Those opposed to doing anything to improve Brewster Memorial Hall, Wolfeboro’s Town Hall, are back at it again. They won’t settle for anything because that would be less than their dream of everything – spending millions of taxpayer dollars to build a monument to something that wasn’t. We’ll find out soon enough if the editor’s denial that there’s an impending 2014 multi-million dollar warrant is correct.

So let’s talk about the UNH survey that he tries to reinterpret. When the nationally recognized head of the UNH Survey Center presented the results to the Selectmen, there wasn’t a single question about the results. They couldn’t get him out of there fast enough.

Now, four years later, they say that because two of the five options in the survey concerned Brewster Hall, the results of those two should be combined to show that the “consensus is in favor of preserving the building”. OK, let’s do that. I’ve got the data from the original survey.

The questions asked voters, for each option, if they feel it’s acceptable, are neutral, or feel it’s unacceptable. The two Brewster Hall options were Reduced Scale Restoration and Interim Repairs. At the time, the Reduced Scale Restoration was being promoted by the Friends and they were telling the public that it would cost no more than $3 million. The Interim Repairs were itemized and estimated to be $750,000.

30% indicated that reduced scale was acceptable, and 26% found interim repairs acceptable. So I guess the editor is saying that means 56% are “in favor of preserving the building”.

But actually, only 42% found either one or both options to be acceptable. That’s because their method assumes that all voters indicated that only one of the two was acceptable, as would be the case had we asked them to choose between the two. But they were independent questions and 14% found both to be acceptable, while 28% found one but not the other to be acceptable. Pretty poor support if you ask me.

But why stop there? Let’s be thorough and look at the flip side of combining. How many found either or both to be unacceptable? The answer is a stunning 69%.

The Selectmen/Friends/Newspaper would be better off to stick with the results of the more recent referendum question on the 2012 ballot where voters were asked the simple question: “Do you support the restoration of Brewster Memorial Hall to serve as town offices?” 48% said yes and 52% said no.

Either way, they don’t have the support they claim to have, and they are abusing the public trust when they violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the New Hampshire open meeting laws by scheming in private to develop plans to use public money on a publicly owned building.

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3 Responses to Careful what you ask for

  1. Jim Noble says:

    It’s time to move on, in my opinion. The building should be condemned and demolished, and the land made available for private development. The “pro” renovation position is based on an esthetic judgement, and “de gustibus non est disputandum”, but I am not the only voter who thinks it’s an eyesore. Look around the lake – Gilford and Moultonborough have proper modern facilities for their town employees, so should we.

  2. wolfeblog says:

    Another side of the debate, but not a realistic position to resolve this impasse. The friends, with their entrenched political standing, have the votes to block anything like you suggest. The somewhat fractured resistance, that is people who don’t want to spend millions on the place for a variety of individual reasons, have the votes to block restoration as well. The resolution lies in compromise. The Friends have to give up on a multi-million taxpayer funded restoration, and the opposition needs to agree to keep the offices in Brewster Hall with a reasonable office rehabilitation plan over several years. Not my first choice either, but that’s the reality.

    I have no idea how we will get there. There is no viable public forum to discuss anything. The hyperbole that the newspaper is spewing just widens the divide.

  3. Jim Noble says:

    Well, you make a good point about the Friends’ influence. But sometimes, to move issues towards resolution, it’s necessary to draw the alternatives more sharply rather than to attempt to compromise positions which are too far apart for such a solution. Town Hall AS A TOWN HALL is no good, for all the reasons cited so many times. Fixing up the offices so they are less than horrible does not address the parking and access issues, which cannot be reasonably addressed at all at the present location. The only reason the Friends want the offices to stay is that it provides a rationale for saving the dilapidated ancient structure.

    A proposal for relocation of the offices and demolition of the obsolete structure, which will otherwise continue to bleed the taxpayers for the indefinite future, might have the effect of cutting this particular Gordian knot.

    We shall see.

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