Killingworth is expected to vote soon on whether to more than double the size of our local government. Really, many in town want to more than double the size of our usable office space in our existing town hall from under 5,000 square feet to about 10,000 square feet. You might think we are expecting a population boom in Killingworth, but that is not the case.
Our population in 2000 was 6,018 and grew to 6,562 in 2009. According to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Killingworth's population is supposed to remain the same over the next 5 years. The size of usable office space in our town hall has remained under 5,000 square feet since
the temporary pods (2,700 square feet) were added in about 2002.
If the information provided by the Building Committee is accurate, those
who voted in 2002 to purchase pods instead of a making a permanent addition made a mistake. The pods cost $500,000 and a permanent addition to the town hall apparently could have been constructed for $650,000. It appears today, however, we may be making a mistake in the other direction.
The Building Committee, First Selectman, and others want to make sure we dream big and live large. Like some late night infomercials, they contend bigger is not just better, but necessary. The price tag to double the usable square footage for our town hall will be $3,500,000.
Keep in mind, this proposal is coming at a time when the town apparently has a $1,400,000 budget shortfall, there are commercial properties in town that have been vacant for years, and if you buy a tank of gas each week, you are paying about $1,000 more per year than you were a couple years ago when gas was $3.00 per gallon.
Some of the reasons given at the May 1 first meeting in support of more than doubling the size of usable office space in the town hall were as
1.) Town officials were not happy when the current town hall was first selected.
If they were not happy about the town hall in 1965 and they are still unhappy, maybe the size of the town hall is not the cause of their unhappiness.
2.) Construction work will be provided to local businesses.
I am all for supporting local businesses but preferably with private funds. The best way to do this is to keep our property taxes as low as possible so we can privately afford to hire local contractors for maintenance and improvements to our own homes.
3.) The design fits in with the town.
So what? A smaller design can also fit in.
4.) The addition will be energy efficient.
An addition that is half as big will also be energy efficient and it will use less energy.
5.) The town can have an Emergency Operations Center that includes a shower and a bed.
Why not just use KES or the middle school as an Emergency Operations
Center? There are generators and showers at KES and the middle school, and we can inflate an air mattress or two.
6.) There will be enough space to vote in the new town hall.
I really like seeing politicians outside KES at election time. When they come to KES, they are saying, "Hey, I work for you and I really am committed to working hard to earn your trust." I will not get that same vibe when they roll out of a taxpayer financed bed, take a shower in town hall, and ride down in a shiny new elevator to greet me at the voting booth.
7.) Other towns have big town halls.
Most other towns have a commercial tax base that can support huge town halls. We do not.
8.) There will be a public meeting space for up to 75 people.
At $400-500 per square foot for such space, can't we just continue to get together at KES?
9.) The finance rates are at an all time low.
I agree but why does this mean we should more than double the size of town hall? Hey neighbors, call your contractors up and get some quotes on doubling the size of your house. Didn't you know interest rates are at an all time low?
10.) The pods are a safety hazard.
Apparently the pods were expected to last ten years and may be unsafe. If this is true, then why are the children and teachers at KES sitting in 17-year-old pods as you read this letter? Assuming it is true that the town hall pods are a safety hazard, I believe the town should build a permanent addition to the town hall with roughly the same usable square footage as the pods, and any such addition should be one level so we do not need an elevator.
When you show up to vote you will either be for more than doubling the size of our town hall or a "get me a more realistic plan with roughly the same usable square footage as our current office space" person. I am in the latter group and I hope you will join me in graciously requesting a smaller, more efficient, and less expensive town hall plan.