A View From Glen Hill: And the beat goes on...
So, on goes the Miller-Driscoll matter with “Sensible Wilton” now threatening litigation since the Board of Selectmen hasn’t acceded to its demands based on legal advice to the contrary from our town attorney who is a highly regarded municipal-law practitioner.
A good friend whose years of Wilton residence dwarfs my own told me recently that our town has been hit in the past with various protest groups that have risen up and then petered out. They cause trouble and waste town resources, but at the end of the day they quietly disappear, having wrought their damage. If “Sensible Wilton” is truly planning litigation over their very insensible plans (as their lawyer’s letter threatens claiming, “… no choice but to seek judicial intervention …”), they will be living up to that pattern as they waste town resources with, at the end of the day, results no different than where we are now.
Meanwhile, renovation work for Miller-Driscoll that everyone agrees — even “Sensible” — needs to be done as soon as possible for the health and well-being of our youngest students would get delay after delay if “Sensible’s” scenario were followed. How can that be a sensible result? Take a look at “Sensible’s” inchoate “specific” proposals to cut costs: do just the roof and HVAC. But as Building Committee Co-Chair Bruce Hampson explained at the most recent Board of Selectmen meeting 10 days ago on “Sensible’s” latest petition, failing to do all that needs to be done or doing it only piecemeal actually adds to the costs and threatens to lose us state subsidies of $6 million, not to mention delaying the overall project at a time when construction costs are rising 4% annually.
Ironically, “Sensible’s” lawyer has written elsewhere that his personal view is that our town should consider a new build as opposed to a rebuild. As a then new arrival in town, he apparently was unaware that this option has been carefully considered and rejected for multiple compelling reasons, including: (a) cost ($75 million v. $50 million); (b) the state’s dislike of new construction as opposed to rebuilds (jeopardizing $6 million in state subsidy of our $50 million rebuild costs); and (c) lack of available land for a new structure or of a place to accommodate our children if the existing structure were completely demolished to make room for an entirely new building.
At the latest hearing, we heard “Sensible’s” usual canards mentioned — as “Sensible” does repeatedly with no regard for accuracy, as if ceaseless repetition would make them true. Two examples:
(1) Miller-Driscoll School enrollment is going way down; the truth: projections in the recent 30-page Milone and MacBroom report show as the best estimate a decline of only 7% over the next eight years (as far out as one can reasonably project) when this rebuild is designed to last for another 50 years.
(2) Residents did not know about the vote last September; the truth (looking to this newspaper and not including other media sources in town): banner headline on Sept. 18, 2014, the week before the vote, “Town leaders implore ‘yes’ vote” under which was a lengthy, in-depth article on the build, including comments from Bill Brennan, Building Committee Co-Chairs Bruce Hampson and Karen Birck, and stating also, in its third paragraph, “Sensible Wilton has recently called on residents to denounce the project and vote ‘no.’” This column in that same issue bore the headline, “A ‘yes’ vote is the way to go” with a detailed description of the rebuild plans and their benefits versus alternatives.
The fact is that “Sensible’s” petition support base is dwindling, as its 291 signatories to its most recent petition (versus 1,070 to its first; 73% fewer signatures) demonstrates — with more than 64% in each case persons who chose not even to vote in September. Certainly the opinion of “Sensible’s” counsel offers no cogent reason why a clear process of bond resolution vote finality should be twisted into a process that potentially never ends with repetitive, successive petitions every time several hundred residents decide to file a challenge to each new vote, leading to nothing ever being resolved or accomplished.
Sensible Wilton can show how big its spirit and concern for our town are by dropping its litigation threat and focusing instead on its original stated objective of trying to save our town costs. It can thereby contribute a viewpoint that is useful and helpful rather than multiplying the burden with litigation expensive to it as well as to all of us.