Time to see the forest
Feb 27, 2014 | 5261 views | 0 0 comments | 300 300 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week we reported on some conceptual plans for a new, combined fire and police facility for the town of Wilmington. While the plans are just that, conceptual, they do start the mind wondering about what could be, and what would be realistic for the community.

Wilmington has been going through quite a bit of conceptual planning since Tropical Storm Irene flooded the village.

Given that the plans came out just before Town Meeting, we would hope that there would be some discussion about the ideas during the day on Tuesday. We know this is all a moving target, as most preliminary studies for projects such as this are cast in sand.

But the discussion needs to start somewhere and sometime, and that’s exactly what these plans are a catalyst for.

But they must also be part of a bigger picture. Wilmington needs to continue its rebirth, born out of the devastation Irene visited on the town two-and-a-half years ago.

Of course, it hasn’t been all bleary-eyed dreaming. Some real things have been accomplished: the West Main Street parking lot and the Reardons’ Crossing bridge are two things that come to mind.

But constructing municipal buildings and moving public services are much more to the heart of the town’s infrastructure, and come with some upheaval and a price tag. In this case, around $5 million.

All of this demands discussion and consideration. And moving the police and fire departments into a flood-protected location aren’t the only municipal infrastructure issues. What about the town offices? What about the current high school building? Those and other long-term use questions need to be looked at and addressed.

Don’t read this the wrong way. We don’t see these conceptual plans as a negative. Quite the contrary.

We firmly believe that towns needs to invest in their infrastructure. There are a number of reasons for that investment such as quality of life, preservation of historic property or better access. If towns want to attract private investment, they also need to spend some on the public infrastructure, or businesses will go somewhere else.

We’re not just talking about Wilmington here. Dover also has some long-term needs, and has some plans in the works. The Valley Trail expansion and a landscaping plan both are on the books.

We would like to see more from the towns, A 15- to 20-year timeline would allow for financial planning, exploration of funding methods, and sustainable development plans that voters and changing selectboards can support and consistently work with over time. By looking out at a more distant horizon, towns can then begin to focus on specific projects. The individual tasks won’t seem so daunting, and officials can use the long-term plans to clearly articulate what the goals are, what the costs will likely be, and what the benefits to the town’s residents, guests, and businesses will be.

It’s so easy for all of us to get caught up in the day-to-day and week-to-week of life. But once in a while it’s important to push all that aside and take a good long look ahead. If not, we’ll never know where we’re going, let alone get there.

Board expansion, assistant needed

We urge Halifax voters to support the selectboard expansion to five members, and support the part-time administrative assistant. This is not the first time a selectboard expansion question has come to Town Meeting voters in Halifax. While the first time it was voted down, we encourage voters there to listen to what their elected officials are saying.

We also urge voters to approve the part-time administrative assistant position. The town’s officials need the help, and they need to spread the workload around. The complexities of running any municipality, even a small one such as Halifax, are staggering, and seem to grow exponentially every year. There is no doubt that this will be a substantial change for the town, and there is certainly a cost involved with the new position.

But we know that voters have the ability to see past the sea change their town leaders are asking them to support, and look at the long-term viability of their community’s governance. Halifax’s workload has grown and will continue to grow. Voters need to recognize that and give their town officials the tools they’re asking for.

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