To the Editor:
I’ve had an opportunity to review the 12 questions addressed to Wilton’s Board of Selectmen candidates by “Sensible Wilton” as published in GOOD Morning Wilton last Thursday, Oct. 22.
A number of those questions are straightforward and well-framed, but several of them have contentious and⎯in at least one case⎯inaccurate preambles that render them less than stellar examples of fair questioning. In light of all of that, I’d ask the following three questions myself of the candidates based on some of “Sensible Wilton’s” twelve questions, and I’ll go a step further than “Sensible Wilton” and even offer some sensible answers to each of them:
- Do you agree with “Sensible Wilton’s” assertion that, “Capital bonded projects have often been presented to the voters without significant analysis and deliberation or the opportunity to learn about the genuine need, actual cost (near and long term) and true financial impact of the proposal?”
My answer: Having attended town annual and special meetings faithfully for years, I’m at a loss to think of a bonding proposal that has not been presented in exhaustive ⎯ and sometimes exhausting! ⎯ detail, with citizen questions asked and answered and with Board of Selectmen or Board of Education hearings on the subject beforehand, as well as careful Board of Finance review. Those hearings, meetings, and the reports presented and analyses given, it seems to me, would have satisfied even the most information-wonkish soul. But if any of the candidates should answer “yes” to my first question, then I’d ask this follow-up:
- Please describe which capital bonded projects in your view have been deficient and in what specific respects and how you ⎯ during your terms of service respectively on the Board of Finance (Lynne Vanderslice) and the Board of Selectmen (Deborah McFadden) ⎯ have addressed this asserted issue already.
I’ll be very interested in hearing the specific examples offered if any of the candidates answers yes to my question # 1. Next…
- “Sensible Wilton’s” third question suggests that “a growing number of taxpayers” feels that there are still unanswered questions regarding the design and scope of the project. Let’s disregard both whether or not there really is “a growing number of taxpayers” and that SW’s own expensive lawsuit and tactics have been the only “drive-up” in project cost to the town. I would ask our candidates: If it turns out that making changes in the design of the Miller-Driscoll rebuild now in significant ways like “Sensible Wilton” proposes would actually increase the cost of the project and/or delay its completion or lose some (or all) of the $6 million of state reimbursement for the project, would you nonetheless be in favor of making those changes?
The point is quite simply that there is a rebuilding plan and a time line, and that changing either significantly will almost certainly upset the entire cost structure of the rebuild to our town’s very serious detriment. It seems we are all, including “Sensible Wilton” itself, now well past the recommendation of a rebuild limited to the roof and HVAC ⎯ as Mr. [Alex] Ruskevich urged in a letter published on Jan. 15 of this year, writing, “…improvements are needed at Miller-Driscoll but should be concentrated on items that are needed now for student health/safety: roof and HVAC.”
In fact, only two months later, “Sensible’s” litigation lawyer urged in a March 25 letter to the editor of GOOD Morning Wilton that our town should consider a new build as opposed to a rebuild. However, the new-build approach ⎯ which was subject to careful consideration by the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee ⎯ was rejected for multiple compelling reasons, including: (a) higher cost than the rebuild; (b) the state’s dislike of new construction as opposed to rebuilds (jeopardizing $6 million in state subsidy of the $50 million rebuild cost); 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.
Then I’d ask one final question of the candidates focused on “Sensible Wilton” itself:
- Have you asked “Sensible Wilton” to identify its members other than Messrs. Ruskewich and Noel⎯the only members of “Sensible Wilton” identified by name in its complaint against the town over the rebuild that was filed this past summer? If so, how has “Sensible” responded?