When the School Modernization Committee announced several weeks ago that it would be pushing back its original March 1 deadline a full three months to June 1, The Cheshire Herald urged members of that group to look at late spring as a last resort.
In order to fully flesh out these expensive and important proposals, and to give as many people as possible an opportunity to weigh in on the particulars of this first phase of what promises to be a years-long project, the SMC needed to get details in the hands of the Town Council as soon as possible. Presenting findings in early June and expecting everything to be resolved in time to have a proposal before the voters at referendum in November seemed like a daunting proposition.
As it turns out, the SMC agreed.
It was recently announced that the Committee had determined the June 1 date was far too pessimistic and that, instead, something could be approved and presented to the Council by April 1. Now, just last week, the SMC showed why they were so confident in setting an early-April deadline: The group approved two options for Phase 1 of the project, and will now present its recommendations to the Council.
We share some of the concerns expressed by certain members of the SMC, who questioned making a final determination before all the costs are known. The group, according to BOE Chair Tony Perugini, plans to hash all of that out over the next week, so that their presentation to the Council will be more precise.
Yet, as it stands, the cost ranges are now known and both the Council and the public at large can begin to digest what is being recommended, and what it will mean, financially, to move forward.
As this publication has said on a number of occasions, Cheshire faces a difficult decision as it plans its future, one that includes what will undeniably be the most expensive and expansive project ever undertaken by the community. It comes at a time when the nation is just beginning to emerge from a pandemic and assessing the damage done.
There are signs that the financial catastrophe predicted by many midway through last year will turn out to have been overly pessimistic and that, perhaps, the nation will be able to survive this terrible ordeal with its economy still relatively intact. It’s also true that Cheshire has fared better than many municipalities in Connecticut when it comes to the business community, and the hope is that the trend will continue throughout 2021 and beyond.
But the future remains cloudy. No one knows for certain what a post-pandemic world will look like. Many in Cheshire may be understandably leery about the prospect of moving forward with this expansive plan at this particular point in time.
That’s why, for those convinced that Cheshire needs to address its school infrastructure now rather than later, these next couple of months will be crucial to lay out the entire proposal, answer all questions, debate those who are opposed, and then, after all of that, let the voters decide.
Not everyone will feel comfortable with the final decision, whatever that may be. However, the more time the community has to consider what the consequences of action or inaction will mean, the better the chance that voters will make an informed decision come November.
If they approve the project, work can begin with the confidence that the community is behind the effort. If the voters strike the project down, local leaders will have to assess what it was that proved to be unpalatable to the general public and address those concerns.
It seems like a long time from now to November, but life moves quickly. Given the importance of the project being considered, it’s only right that this community spend the bulk of 2021 debating the merits of such a vast undertaking. We are glad the conversation can now begin in earnest.