Letter: Bankrupting Wilton citizens 'out of necessity'

To the Editors:

Here we go again. Whenever I hear that the town of Wilton is scheming (yet another) multimillion-dollar boondoggle project, I can always expect it carries the explanation  — “Because we need it.” This time, the boondoggle’s name is the Comstock Community Center and the project is a renovation. Among the reasons: this project includes more energy-efficient HVAC systems, upgrades for security and fire systems, better ADA access, replacing windows and new toilets. Since the budget for these updates is now in the low orbit of $10 million, one wonders if NASA has been hired to perform the updates or if the toilets will be gold-plated. We’ve heard that these renovations would be cheaper than a new-build; however, at a $10-million price tag and the going rate of roughly $200/sf for single-story commercial construction (see rsmeans.com), that reasoning might be hard to justify.

Now don’t get me wrong, my opposition to this project is not that I’m against a community serving its people with necessary recreation and services. What I am against is the runaway spending and the lack of any outward signs that our leaders have the ability to say ‘No’ to any project, or even a modicum of fiscal deference to the taxpayers. I guess this is because it’s always easy to spend OPM — Other People’s Money.

According to census data, per capita income in Wilton rose 20% from the year 2000 through 2012. During the same period, according to Wilton’s financial records, revenues to be raised from taxes increased more than 60%. I’m not sure how much longer Wilton plans to outpace income growth, but they’re certainly winning the race and I have not seen any signs that personal income will match inflationary growth of any third-world country.

I expect few taxpayers will become aware of this project and its cost until long after the money is spent and they see their tax bill rise — again. And I doubt any selectman fears the voter because they don’t show up at the polls and the choices are often scant. Besides, the best defense is to point at the schools and say, “But look at what they’re doing.” Ultimately, Wiltonians will have a high price to pay when the markets ultimately collapse and incomes and housing values follow. Someone will have to pay all those bonds.

Unfortunately, as Margaret Thatcher once said, “Eventually, you run out of other people’s money.”

Bev Sutherland

Nod Hill Road

March 28