Better late than never.
That’s true of a lot of things in life, including the first meeting of the Cheshire School Modification Committee, which officially gathered on Monday evening to begin the process of hashing out exactly what to do about Cheshire’s old — and getting older — school buildings.
Talk to different people around town and you’ll get different answers as to why such a committee wasn’t formed before now. Who is to blame for the delay seems to be very much in the eye of the beholder, but at this point it would serve little purpose to dig any deeper into that particular hole.
Whatever brought the town to this stage, it is here now, with a diverse group of people who should be able to find consensus on what needs to be done going forward.
We won’t spend much time rehashing all the issues facing the community when it comes to addressing its aging infrastructure. Anyone who has been following this issue over the last several years knows that the question of what to do comes down to scale and price, both of which are intricately connected. The way forward will be determined as much by cost as anything, and the committee seems well aware of the fact that its suggestions must come with a palatable bottom line.
However, one thing did come out of the Modification Committee’s first meeting — a pledge for transparency. We are glad to see such a public commitment made to ensuring that all discussions and actions taken by this committee are done under full scrutiny and with ample opportunity for public feedback.
Whatever suggestions emerge from the group and whatever decisions are made based on those recommendations, it’s likely that Cheshire will be embarking on the most costly and expansive project in the community’s history. There is no way to get around that fact, not when so many buildings are in need of various upgrades.
Even if the town ultimately decides on a plan of refurbishment rather than razing and rebuilding, it will cost millions upon millions to do the work. Granted, those projects will assuredly be phased in over time, but the end result will still be one huge expenditure.
That’s why it is so important not only that the planning process be conducted in the light of day, but also that the public stay engaged all the way through. The decisions made by this committee will likely serve as a guidepost for what the community does in the future. As such, it will go a long way toward determining whether Cheshire ends up on a good path, or not.
Now isn’t the time to sit on the sidelines. This isn’t the type of decision residents can afford to sit back and wait to hear about. Eventually some very expensive projects are going to face the voters at referendum, and they need to enter those voting booths armed with as much knowledge as possible.
Transparency is good, and we are hopeful that the committee stays committed to its pledge to keep everything out in the open. Then, it will be up to the community to take that information and turn it into action.