A difficult lesson learned

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To the editor:

As a resident of Tisbury, I as others have experienced a lot of pain over the school project. We have heard considerable dissension and listened to too many accusations of blame. What we have not enjoyed is a decision to go forward with plans for a new school that should have been made years ago. What could have cost $34 million last year, with a $14 million state grant, is now estimated at $55 million to $60 million, with potential overrides

How did we get here? Lack of collaboration with all parties. Lack of leadership, with our leaders making a decision based on impulse rather than facts, and by failing to send a clear message to our voters. Lack of public support, and too few residents being totally engaged and involved during the entire process.

It was recommended that we should not look back, but move forward. I disagree. Looking back provides a clear lesson of what not to do again. As a community, we will be facing many larger projects and future planning which involve municipal buildings, wastewater systems, and infrastructure expansion and replacement, with global warming and rising sea levels lurking in the background.

The future action on these issues will be made by the same governance process and community members. What do we change to avoid the errors of our past?

We need a budget listing all of the projects ahead of us, and a plan dealing with the time frame and cost. As other communities on the Island have learned, years of delay and lack of direction only escalate costs significantly.

As our leaders make decisions, they need to do so based on facts and realistic budgets that must be diligently monitored to keep us on target.

As residents, we should feel obliged to educate ourselves, to be involved and to make decisions, as our leadership needs to, based on solid plans that we can support to completion. A statement that we “like the old building,” or, “It was good enough for us,” are not facts to base a decision on.

Is there a vehicle for our leaders, when convinced of their recommendation and direction as being thoroughly studied and appropriate for the town, which can delay or review a project that pivots on only 21 votes? Once well-informed, and if voters should still choose a direction that would be costly and inappropriate for the town, what is the alternative?

And when we think of our delays in resolving the school issue, let’s not forget that we are punishing our children, who have been made to endure unsafe and substandard conditions in the school for far too many years, along with the concerns of the parents who want only the best for their children, and the teachers who have had to work in this substandard environment.

We have all been part of this process. Let us recognize our mistakes and not repeat them.

 

Elaine Miller

Vineyard Haven