MISA’s price tag is scary and unnecessary

Greenwich-Voices-DadakisHere’s a question to consider, are you ever scared of government?

Personally, I got scared when Obama proposed trillion dollar deficits long into the future. I got scared again when Dan Malloy started borrowing to pay Connecticut’s operating costs. And I’m scared now as MISA explodes in cost and many town leaders think skyrocketing costs aren’t a  problem.

Instead their attitude is let’s tax more or, better yet, borrow more. One Democratic BET member suggested we could easily indebt the town up to $1 billion.

My Democrat friends seem embarrassed that our mill rate is low and argue Greenwich taxpayers aren’t taxed enough. Malarkey! The mill rate isn’t the measuring stick. Rather it’s about how many dollars Greenwich taxpayers fork over. Despite our mill rate, Greenwich taxes its citizens at a higher amount per capita than most Connecticut municipalities. We are not under taxed.

Congratulations to six Republican BET members and two Republican BOE members who showed courage, did the right thing and said no to even more MISA funds. Many leaders are now questioning the enormity of the overruns, which is vastly different from prior funding debates where there was broad support. The RTM has the opportunity to reevaluate MISA and stand up for fiscal sanity. But will they?

MISA is a project out of control. While the BOE and other town leaders refuse to link MISA with the massive high school soil contamination, they are inextricably linked because the taxpayer will foot the bill.

MISA was originally earmarked for $21 million, ultimately approved for $34 million and now the BOE wants $44 million. No one I’ve spoken with believes that’s the end. We are ultimately looking at costs of $46 million, maybe $50 million or maybe even more.

Is this a responsible use of taxpayer funds? What will we sacrifice as these cost overruns continue to mount? No one’s talking and the BOE seemed indignant when BET members dared ask for answers to those questions.

Before the RTM votes on Monday night, town leaders should tell our citizens what will be deferred or not done at all. Could the Byram pool be eliminated? Perhaps the back country firehouse? Maybe your school renovation will be put on hold or any action on Old Greenwich flooding postponed.

GHS soil remediation is estimated to cost up to $150 million. The BOE and our consultant say a clean up costing about $25 million is likely. But they don’t make the decision, the EPA does. Under Obama, the EPA has imposed more rigorous clean up requirements which could cost us now. An abutting property owner has threatened a lawsuit that is unlikely to, but may, shut the school for years.

Interestingly, the BOE was informed that technology advances now allow our existing auditorium space to be successfully converted into instructional space. Using the existing structure could save taxpayers millions but the BOE refuses to even consider this cost saving approach. Instead they demand new construction.

Recently built Connecticut high school auditoriums are beautiful and functional, costing a fraction of what Greenwich is spending. Should the BOE be able to build an auditorium which makes Greenwich citizens proud for the $34 million already allocated?  Of course.

We are lucky in one way, since construction hasn’t started things can still be changed. But once building begins we are locked into a project that will likely accelerate in cost.

The RTM is the final arbiter. If you believe $34 million is enough to spend, call your RTM representatives urging them to follow the leadership of other town officials and vote no to giving an open checkbook to this project.

 

Ed Dadakis is former chairman of the Republican Town Committee and has spent more than 30 years serving on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). He may be reached at [email protected]

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