Cumbaya at the BOS

Last night’s BOS meeting was dominated by the roll-out of the Friends’ plan to finally git ‘er done at Brewster Hall in the form of a public hearing that is required by law for bonded projects over $100K.  They started off with a nice speech by Joyce Davis, brought up Rob Houseman for the obligatory Power Point show, then launched into a series of testimonials from the core members of the Friends that exponded on the virtues past and present of the great building.

We heard about that magnificent bell that tolls in the night, how someone’s B&B guests repeatedly praise the Town Hall, and how some poor non-profit agencies will now be able have board meeting in the 300 seat great hall.  All very compelling.

Just when it was about to break out in song (That’s the Cumbaya part), I got up to be the party-pooper.  My problem with this is pretty well documented.  It goes back more than a year when Mrs. Murray steamrolled the notion of handing the whole authority for the future of the building over to the Friends.  I wrote about how bad that plan was at the time.

The fundamental issue isn’t their long sought restoration.  It’s about how Mrs. Murray and several other Selectmen have, for the second time, taken the responsibility and authority for determining what Wolfeboro will do with Brewster Hall and placed it in the hands of a private group to develop their exclusive idealistic notions of what the place should be.

They are ramrodding a superficial plan onto the ballot in order to get $4 million dollars which they claim is what this will cost.  They have produced no realistic set of actual plans and no actual cost estimate from any contractor.

We’ve been down this road before.  When given half million in 2007, they went hog-wild and produced the $7 million extravaganza that voters slapped down in big numbers.  Once burned, twice a fool.  Why would we give them $4 million now?  They have a terrible track record and have deliberately excluded the public from their program.

It’s a fact that these folks have the political strength to stop any effort to move town offices out of Brewster Hall.  And that’s fine.  I proposed that we adopt the Wakefield approach.  Turn the auditorium over to the Friends to fix up with their private money, and leave the office renovation to the town through annual capital improvement appropriations.  No borrowing, and no multi-million dollar nest egg that the Friends can go wild on.

The Selectmen voted 3-2 to recommend the Friends’ plan.  Dave Senecal and Brad Harriman said they would prefer to continue to renovate incrementally without borrowing.

Dave Bowers actually said he liked paying taxes (watch it on video, he did precede it by saying this is going to come out wrong) and that he thought we should take advantage of current low interest rates.  Isn’t that the way in America, it’s not about how much you spend, it’s about how much you can save.

In her typical fashion Linda Murray went through 25 years of history as she sees it to justify staying in Brewster Hall.  She says the Friends have some 350 or so people involved in their pledge activity.

Their going to need it.  To pass, they’ll need well over 1,000 votes.

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