The voters have spoken, defeating a multi-million dollar building plan in the New Hartford School District. Although only about 40 votes decided the issue, this was quite an upset considering how many residents are employed by the school district and/or would have a vested interest in the project. While media has painted the proposed purchase of land (with no definite plans for it) on Tibbits Road as the main point of controversy, this blogger thinks it is more.
The bulk of the proposal (almost $16 million) would have been for a "Community Performing Arts Center" to replace the auditorium. Why? There are already plenty of venues in the area easily accessible to New Hartfordites including brand new ones (at MVCC) and ones under construction (Players). To put this part of the proposal in perspective, it almost equals the amount being spent (via grants and private donations) on the Stanley "World Stage" Project , a facility that seats 3,000 and serves a regional population of 200,000+. To spend such a sum on a high school auditorium in a town of 20,000 seems ridiculous. One almost gets the impression that New Hartford's leaders are using the Town Residents' wallets to compete with Utica and the rest of the area instead of making the Town part of the regional "whole." (This is a recurring theme that will be discussed in future blogs).
While at first blush the Math Science and Technology Wing might seem like a worthy investment, one has to consider that it is a NEW WING -- meaning new classrooms -- meaning old classrooms will be left behind. The New Hartford School District 's enrollment has actually been declining, so there is no need for new classrooms. They will only increase maintenance costs. And the "it will serve as a community resource" argument, again, does not hold water because this area is blessed with an abundance of venues for adult education. Residents have already been burdened with supporting a Town Library on Oxford Road -- a library that is actually LESS accessible to parts of New Hartford than the Utica Public Library located only about 2 miles from NH Village. Perhaps they now see there is no need to pay for duplication.
We will not even get into the "astroturf" proposal.
If the School District wants to renovate class space and its auditorium, that's fine an dandy. Do just that. Such a proposal would probably pass in an instant. Expansion, however, would be a NO.
Perhaps the tide has turned, and the public is now starting to realize that continued expansion of facilities in a region of declining population is unsustainable.