To the Editor:

A couple of those folks who cost our town many thousands of dollars in wasted litigation expense in court and in dismissed claims before state election authorities are now complaining about rooms they claim are not currently planned for use due to present enrollment figures but are included within the Miller-Driscoll rebuild. However, their expressed concerns are as baseless as their litigation and election-law violation claims that were dismissed or withdrawn and are now thankfully history.

First, the cost of these rooms is a very small part of the total project.

Second, to execute change orders now respecting them would be more costly than doing the work as planned.

Third, to fail to include rooms that could be useful during the long life of this building is wasteful in itself.

Fourth, changes in design now could adversely affect the amount and timing of state reimbursement for the whole project.

Fifth, there are other educational uses, even in the immediate term, for which these rooms can be very gainfully employed: for enrichment, music, and art programs, for more much-needed special ed space, and for professional development and general meeting space, to name but a few such uses. They could also possibly be used to relieve overcrowding in other town space.

In any event, these rooms should be finished as designed so as not to incur change-order costs and to have them ready for educational use.

I’m just optimistic enough to believe that our society has not willed itself into extinction by failing to reproduce and that in fact there will be a surge in new births for which this space will represent welcome relief wholly apart from these other important uses to which it can be put before then.

Lastly, the Miller-Driscoll project as presented to and approved by voters was a $50 million one that now is a $37 million one. The lawyer for the two perennial critics who call themselves “Sensible Wilton” himself argued earlier on for a new build. But that would have cost at least twice that sum, and the state disfavors new builds as opposed to rebuilds; so that approach could have cost our town $6 million in lost state reimbursement as well as a much higher total project bill.

However, these few highly critical folks who write now offer no acknowledgement of these facts since they only serve to confirm how truly insensible their approach to this project has been. Instead they offer a binary choice between whether this project reflects deception or incompetence. Yet charging deception or incompetence not only fails to comport with the reality of a well-planned project coming in well under budget but also does nothing to advance intelligent debate and sensible dialogue. It really is way past the time for our few but intensely vocal and long-term dyspeptic fellow residents to become less vitriolic and even, wonder of wonders, actually civil.

Steve Hudspeth

17 replies on “Hudspeth to Miller-Driscoll Critics: Stop Vitriol, Start Listening to Facts”

  1. With respect to Mr. Hudspeth’s letter, I will choose to use Ronald Regan’s famous response during a presidential debate “There you go again”.Mr Hudspeth’s comments are long on bluster and short on facts. I have seen this same approach before. I would therefore like to issue a challenge to Mr Hudspeth that we both agree to pay to rent the auditorium at the library and present our facts to the citizens of Wilton. I am ready to let the citizens decide who is telling the truth.

    1. Alex, I’ll be glad to chip in to help rent the library out for your debate. Mr. Hudspeth forgets facts intentionally to gain a badge of honor with the same people who duped us either by deception and/or incompetence.

  2. Mr. Hudspeth,

    You are the one who ignores facts and engages in vitriol. In particular, your optimism about a surge in new births that will fill those classrooms with new students in the foreseeable future is completely unfounded. All experts have agreed that, to the contrary, the student population is declining and will not be returning even to 2014 levels for the foreseeable future, let alone filling the empty classrooms we are spending tens of millions of dollars to build. By the time those new births you describe do arrive, it could be 30, 40, 50 or even more years down the road — and the useful life of the building after the project is complete will be between 25 and 30 years, according to Turner Construction.

    Further, we really will have double-digit empty classrooms even after accounting for repurporsing classrooms for other educational purposes. And contrary to your meritless claim that these rooms could be used for non-educational purposes, the state reimbursement program restricts the use of school construction to educational purposes only. We would put the $6 million in reimbursements at risk by adopting your reckless suggestion, which in any case would make no sense given all the empty space we now have at the newly renovated Comstock facility.

    Sensible Wilton has been talking about excess space for well over a year. The town could have avoided this problem by listening, instead of trying to steamroll and insult Sensible Wilton’s supporters, a strategy you have taken at every step of this process. Our state is in the throes of a grim fiscal crisis that is having major repercussions for our town’s annual budget cycle, and in 2017-2018, we will struggle to keep services at an acceptable level, invest in our schools, and make the necessary debt service payments without very significant tax hikes, further depressing the already-declining real estate values and driving away businesses.

    The fact is, the voters — and many of our elected officials as well — were badly misinformed when told in the summer of 2014 before the referendum that student enrollments were increasing, when in fact they are decreasing. Our elected officials regrettably compounded the problem in late 2015 by moving forward with the project as originally designed, even in the face of mounting evidence that the school would be over-built. These errors could have been averted had the town taken a more cautious and thoughtful approach, as Sensible Wilton’s supporters had urged.

    Wilton is a great town. Our current leadership is a great improvement over the prior administration, our town’s governance has never been more transparent, and despite serious budgetary concerns at the state and local levels, we have a bright future because of our town’s proximity to New York City and perennially excellent schools. But let’s be clear: The future is optimistic in spite of this project, not thanks to it.

    Simon W. Reiff
    Counsel for Sensible Wilton

  3. Way to go, Steve. You tell it like it is. And there’s certainly no vitriol in your presentation at all; unless, of course, honest criticism is now considered vitriol. Nonsense. “Senseless Wilton” generated thousands of dollars in wasted money, time and energy … and here they go, once again, trying to muck things up in their continued unsensible way.

  4. Alex Ruskevich has challenged Stephen Hudspeth to a debate on wrongly adopting budgets by using unfounded, inaccurate, and highly questionable data. Does Mr. Hudspeth accept?

  5. It was all pretty much over. Construction had begun, new facilities management and administration was in place, budget was completed and people with positive attitudes were looking constructively for ways to enhance our Town. Contention over the MD construction had subsided, cost was down $13 million (26%) and both BOS and BOF had taken notice and made mention to consider some excess capacity to be available at the school building site.
    Sadly, our self-appointed (you can place the appropriate nickname) comes back alive with a vitriolic attack on the project creators using verbiage such as “deception, incompetence” and “bamboozled”.
    Their tone was not inquiring. Their tone was not suggesting or recommending. Their headlines were challenging, indicting and trouble making. Why stir the dormant pot? Why start blaming or accusing? Ask your friends in Sensible Wilton what they hoped to accomplish with this outburst. What was the purpose?
    So then citizen Hudspeth, often a defender of Town administration and supporter of Town Boards and activities attempts a fact filled response and hopes the situation is again completed and we can move on.
    But alas, the Sensible wants to fight, wants to rent a hall and debate “the Issues”. He wants to put the whole thing back on trial, a case he has already lost once and prove Lord knows what. But what good will it l do to open the wounds from the bitter exchanges of the past; the false accusations sent to the State, the failed law suit, etc. Why? Why did Sensible Wilton try to reopen this case with the die already cast? What could they have hoped to accomplish other than repeat their militant, anti-community, sore loser image?
    We should be moving forward; preserving our fine little Town, making the best of what we have and ensuring that superior education prevails above all else on our menus.

    1. Mr. Moskow, are you saying Mr. Hudspeth declines?

      Alex Ruskevich has challenged Stephen Hudspeth to a debate on wrongly adopting budgets by using unfounded, inaccurate, and highly questionable data. Does Mr. Hudspeth accept?

  6. We do not speak for Mr. Hudspeth. He does a fine job of it himself. We do know that he is a private citizen and is not, as far as we know, empowered to speak for the BOS, BOF, BOE or MDBC. You know, all those people you named and attacked above. He also need not speak for the residents of Wilton who have already spoken on this issue and it is DONE. So we do not know what he would be debating. It’s over, done, finished. Remember that law suit?

  7. …Alex Ruskevich has challenged Stephen Hudspeth to a debate on wrongly adopting budgets by using unfounded, inaccurate, and highly questionable data. Does Mr. Hudspeth accept?

  8. Mr Moscow is playing loosely with the truth again. Judge Provadator agreed that Sensible Wilton had “standing” to pursue our legal action as he stated in his summary below.
    “The Town of Wilton has opted for a legislative body consisting of a more traditional – as opposed to representative – town meeting, where all electors, as a body, constitute the legislative body of the Town. A group of electors submitted a petition, assisted and/or coordinated by the plaintiff and its founders, seeking to have the proposal for a new ordinance considered by way of a Special Town Meeting and subsequent vote/referendum. At least hundreds of Town electors had signed the petition,9 including (inferentially) Alex Ruskewich and Curtis Noel, the individuals who formed and control the plaintiff. Those electors are, in a sense, being disenfranchised by the action of the defendants – or more accurately, the executive branch of the Town is precluding legislative consideration of a proposed ordinance, by refusing to act upon a petition seeking to commence the legislative process. The defendants contend that the fact that the plaintiff rather than individual signers commenced this proceeding presents a standing-based bar to further review. That loss of the Charter-based right to submit a proposed ordinance constitutes a colorable claim of injury for each of the petition-signing electors including Mr. Ruskewich and Mr. Noel, and under the circumstances of this case and Hunt, sufficiently establishes the standing of plaintiff to pursue this action.

    For all these reasons, then, the motion to dismiss is denied.”

    Unfortunately the Town lawyers, by questioning our standing, were able to delay this decision until contracts were signed for the MD project. They did this at a cost of over $104,000. Sensible Wilton was proven right, but the town lawyers were able to create a fait acompli.
    If Mr. Moscow does not understand the ruling, I would be happy to explain it to him.

    1. That was a preliminary ruling widely thought to be a very bad decision since if upheld it would lead to endless petition-based reopenings of potentially every town bonding vote whichever side won on successive revotes. The decision was what is called interlocutory and therefore subject to change by this judge as he learned more about the case and reconsidered the law on his ruling –had the case actually progressed further. If he failed to change his position on this and the town had lost even after he reviewed the facts in a full review of the case in those later proceedings, his decision would have been subject to appeal and likely reversed in the appellate process especially in light of the town’s compelling argument about lack of finality in town decision-making if the preliminary decision were left standing.

  9. Mr. Moskow understands. (normally spelled with a K) In all games, legal and life, when the whistle blows and the game ends, you count up the score. Blab all you want about all the plays, the scoreboard shows indisputable reality. You win or you lose. Sensible lost. Sell the movie rights if you wish and the judge’s wisdom, but Sensible lost and there is no instant replay there.

  10. Hello Mr. Moskow,

    The only thing is it is not over. True, our taxes will go up exponentially due to an unfounded and inaccurate numbers scheme designed by the BOE but that type of duping the Wilton taxpayer will never happen again. All Alex wants is process fairness not numbers bamboozling by people who do not sign related party questionnaires resulting in tax increases for the town.

  11. The plans and schedules are drawn. The construction is underway. The costs are down by millions. We even have a largely new administration now. We have a chance to heal this rift in our town. New potential homebuyers might have a chance to open a paper or visit this website and not see people fighting over a decision that is now DONE.

    Yet Mr. Ruskewich wants to flame the embers back into a blaze. Why? What good can this accomplish? Does he think that stopping construction and re-drawing the plans would cost less than carrying a few extra classrooms?

    So what is it Mr. Ruskewich hopes to achieve? Obviously some like Mr. Reiff might profit from continuing the battle. And there are others who have always been more interested in the fight than in the issues. But what tangible benefit for Wilton will come from prolonging this nasty public debate?

  12. Hello Rick,
    Mr. Ruskevich wants what is right in town. Not the fudging of deceptive numbers that allows insiders to take advantage of tax paying citizens. What also was of interest after the vote only passed by 27 votes (via manipulative ways), the registrar immediately stated “There will be no recount”. Not only was the vote hijacked by Ms. Birck, Mr. Hampson, Ms. Gerner, and Mr. Rapynski with inaccurate numbers, Mr. Brennan had the gall to ask for Police presence at a Selectman meeting because he thought Curt Noel and alex ruskevich were a violent threat to the meeting. At that meeting where no parents were present, “volunteers” who have no problem with not signing related party questionairres questioned the numbers that alex was presenting all along and some called him a liar. do I think something is very amiss in this town?…and the contract meeting that was signed under duress (we must sign now or we will be sorry)….we still have a very shaky town government and God bless Alex Ruskevich!!!

  13. HUDSPETH et Al miss the point, again! MDBC and advocates rushed this project thru and consequently cost the town many millions of dollars in unnecessary expense. To now ignore their irresponsible behavior, they have the chutzpah to accuse SW for ‘wasting’ several thousand dollars in legal fees. Absurd and shameless.

    Advocates for this most wasteful project in Wilton’s history should be ashamed, should apologize to all taxpayers and step away from participating in any other town business.

    Simple, really!

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