“Instead of learning, we are repeating past mistakes”

Newsletter Volume 1 • Number 34

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Selectwoman Janet Stone McGuigan: Greenwich BET Needs Competent Civic Planning

“Instead of learning, we are repeating past mistakes.”

One reason I love my job is because it allows me to learn Greenwich’s history. If only every Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) member shared my interest in local history, perhaps we could avoid repeating our past mistakes regarding school capital projects.    

At the February 9th BET Budget Committee hearing, there was much discussion about declining enrollment as a reason to override the building plans adopted by the Board of Education (BOE) for Central Middle School (CMS). 

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s happened before.

Did the Town not close Parkway and Dundee schools because of declining enrollment, only to have to reopen them in short order? Did we save any money? And if we did, was it worth the division it sowed? Let’s not miss the opportunity to learn something from this.

Some on the BET suggested that the new CMS auditorium should be downsized, because the Representative Town Meeting could use the high school Performing Arts Center for its meeting space. 

That’s an interesting idea, and worth exploring. But I am reminded that had the high school been right sized from the start, we would not have had to fund the contentious and costly effort to build a new performing arts center (MISA), which, in turn, would not have exposed the contaminated playing fields that now require costly remediation. 

Again, let’s learn from history and get things right from the beginning.

When designing CMS as a net zero facility was raised, some Republican BET members claimed the most energy efficient building is a smaller building. That isn’t trueThe size of a building has nothing to do with its sustainability. What makes a building energy and cost efficient is designing it as a highly insulated space with integrated systems. That’s why it’s important to get the size right now, and not rely on future add-ons.

Separating fact from fiction

Selectwoman Janet Stone McGuigan

It is not a fact that the town can only spend $100 million on capital projects this year.  Nothing in the town charter limits capital spending to this level. 

It is not a fact that Greenwich can only pursue one project at a time. There is no historical basis to this claim. And if it were an official policy, then why are the ice skating rink, the Havemeyeraaaa Selectwoman Janet Stone McGuigan building and Roger Sherman Baldwin Park being put forward at the same time?

Does it make any sense to delay the work on Old Greenwich School for yet another year, and work on the ice skating this year? If we do that, we deprive Western Middle School kids the use of the playing fields adjacent to the rink. They have been relying on these fields while they wait for remediation of their own contaminated playing fields, closed for going on seven years.

Where is the civic planning?

Republican BET members suggested that spending on our schools be capped to demonstrate care for the almost 30% of town residents who are income-constrained. Really? 

Every million dollars added to the budget represents $50 on the tax assessment of the average Greenwich homeowner. So the Old Greenwich School renovation spread over a five year bonding period would cost the AVERAGE household $250 total. Compare that to the costs of injuring or sickening a child who attends a school regularly flooded with raw sewage and non-ADA compliant.

The Board of Education and school building committees deserve our deep appreciation. Their unpaid service is incredibly demanding. To show our gratitude, please let the BET know you support fully funding the BOE capital budget. Send your comments to BET@GreenwichCT.org before March 7.  

Let’s break with history and show our children they are worth investing in.

Legislative Corner

Representatives Steve Meskers and Hector Arzeno testified against a bill that would limit the fees coastal towns like Greenwich could charge non-residents for access to Town beaches. The representatives cited the shortage of parking, which limits residents’ ability to access our beaches.

Editorial that caught our eye

“On the trail with Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe.” John Breunig of Greenwich Time writes, “O’Keefe’s … stunts reliably leaned on actors to try to entrap people, using hidden cameras and editing footage in a manner that may meet his own code, but falls short of ethics as defined by the Society of Professional Journalists.” Last week O’Keefe was ousted from the organization he created over financial malfeasance and mistreatment of employees. O’Keefe has been an invited guest speaker of the Greenwich Patriots.

For your calendar

Tomorrow, March 3! Please come show your appreciation for the life-saving work done by the American Red Cross at a flag-raising at Town Hall on Friday March 3 at 10:00 a.m. Wear blue to show your Democratic appreciation for their work.

March 8.

Central Middle School Building Committee Community Forum.

The Central Middle School Building Committee invites all members of the Greenwich community to an engagement forum on Wednesday, March 8 from 7:30-8:30 PM in the school’s auditorium. Representatives from the project’s architects, SLAM, will be in attendance to share preliminary concepts for a new CMS. Community members will have an opportunity to electronically submit their comments at the forum. The session will also be broadcast live on Zoom (or dial 646-558-8656 and use Webinar ID: 889 9442 0713) and recorded for future viewing.

Seeking nominations for sustainability award

The Greenwich Sustainability Committee is pleased to request nominations for its newly established Sustainability Award to be presented in conjunction with the Town’s Earth Day Proclamation. The Sustainability Award has been created to celebrate Greenwich residents who embody the principles of the committee. Please send nominations to sustainability@greenwichct.org no later than March 17

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