Over the past few months, we have all heard many common-sense reasons why approving yet another bond, for $7.5 million, to re-stuff the entire town office operation into an inadequate building that is in a flood plain and has limited parking is a bad idea. We voters already approved a $5million bond specifically designated for the complete “repair and restoration” of Town Hall; we will save our old town hall. This is enormously wasteful, and it lacks the common sense we should exercise to ensure our investments last the test of time. Three of our most notable town assets (Old Library, Old Town Hall, Wickford Elementary) have been so egregiously neglected that they could not even be inhabited anymore. All have long been vacant. Wickford El has been vacant for 14 years now. How could anyone reasonably assume that this renovated structure would also not meet the same wasteful and undignified demise as all of our other historical municipal structures.
It gets better. The new construction will occupy the area behind the building where parking spaces are now, so a new parking lot will have to go where the Veterans Memorial Park is currently located. That means relocation Veterans’ Memorial and paving it over. However, the Deed for this parcel (Book 224, Page 1097) specifically states that the acquisition of this parcel (made in 1970), by way of Eminent Domain shall be used only for “conservation and recreation purposes,” per General Laws of Rhode Island, Title 32, Chapter 4, and Title 24, Chapter 1. I predict a legal challenge; how much will that add to the bill?
The Town Hall issue has been contentious for a while, but I see some common ground. We all agree that we need to save the old town hall and we approved $5 million for that purpose. An additional $7.5 million is unnecessary as the town has outgrown the location; a 2017 survey found 83% of the voters want a consolidated government center with school and town offices in one place. What will happen to Wickford Middle School when it is closed in a year or so? That is where our new consolidated government center should be.
On 05 November, I urge you to vote NO on Question #1.