Sadly, Mr. Hughes is living in the past thinking I’m still part of TOCAG and that my objective is to build new Town Offices. He seems oblivious that TOCAG was disbanded more than four years ago after accomplishing all that it set out to do. From the outset TOCAG’s objective was to figure out what people wanted to do about Town Offices. That was accomplished through a survey of all voters conducted by the impartial UNH survey center. Given the results of that survey, I’m not surprised he’s blocked it out. The website is still there at TOCAG.ORG, just as we left it in March of 2009. Look at the plan, see for yourself.
That survey, together with the more recent voter referendum in 2012, represents the only interest that anyone has ever shown in trying to determine what the community would like to do, or not do, about conditions in the town offices. The Selectmen and Friends refused to participate. They have never conducted a public hearing on the subject. Their Town Hall Options Committee never asked for public input.
Now Mr. Hughes says that all other options have been voted down and it’s time to do what they want. That’s nonsense. Their multi-million restorations have been voted down twice, while two modest incremental repair warrants have been approved.
I think he’s right when he says there’s insufficient support to build new offices. That’s why there was no competing plan or serious opposition to their 2011 $4 million restoration plan. The Friends got the benefit of the doubt. But it failed anyway, and just as well. Since then we’ve learned through direct experience that the costs were grossly underestimated.
Mr. Hughes can try to redefine the argument and blur history, but evidence remains strong that there is inadequate public support for any big project. I’m open to anything that improves working conditions short of handing the Friends millions of dollars. We’ve already lost a half-million as he unapologetically explains “on a great chef for a meal we couldn’t afford”. We still owe $394,000 on that tab. Did he mention that the chef also wanted $200,000 for dessert?
I’m not interested in giving millions to a group that doesn’t care to ask what I think and won’t allow me to participate in the plans to spend it. Does anyone else see the irony in trying to restore a hundred year old public meeting place by limiting choice and circumventing the open meeting laws? They have no use for the heated debate that surely echoes in that space.
In the interest of our employees we can make a commitment, as the Editor said last week, to incremental improvements. Over time we can upgrade and modernize the first floor, suite by suite, without borrowing. History says that will work and big dollar plans won’t, and we can stop anytime it gets out of hand.
It may take a few years, but this standoff has cost us six years already and is harming other infrastructure needs. They can howl that it will cost more than giving them millions, but we all know better.
I’ll start thinking about what we can put on the ballot to get the ball rolling.
Note: This was sent to the Grunter, but was not published.