Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Is the Tide Turning in New Hartford?

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.


Anonymous said...

Just out of curiousity, when was the last time you attended an event in the Oxford Rd Auditorium? Last year allow I attended an event where there were buckets collecting water from the leaky roof as an elementary choir sang behind it.

We need to invest in our future. Yesterday was a sad day for this community, deciding to save the a little money (the cost of lunch at Burger King a month) instead of providing a change for the children of the community.

Strikeslip said...

Thank you for your comment. Of course, I disagree.

A leaking roof suggests a lack of maintenance and diligence on the part of the school administration and board. It does not justify spending 16 million.

A "Community Performing Arts Center" by implication goes beyond the need of the school district for a high school auditorium -- a need that does not exist because the 'community' is adequately served by venues in Utica and the region.

New Hartford has already given top priority to educating its children (reflected in its impressive national ranking) . . . but it is not the only priority.

While the cost may seem like a little, it is on top of school taxes that are clearly excessive when compared with those found in other parts of the country with which this region competes for jobs. While it is understandable for parents to want as much as they can possibly get for their children, the community's needs are more modest: educating the next generation to capably take the reigns of its institutions. We are already doing this. Parents who insist that the public has an obligation to do more are simply being selfish.

Mrs. Mecomber said...

Let's paint Strikeslip's last paragraph on a huge billboard and plaster it all over town. HERE, HERE!!!!

I just don't think a lot of people really understand what is so aptly written in plain English:

Parents who insist that the public has an obligation to do more are simply being selfish.

Here's a revolutionary idea: If parents are so terribly distressed that their children are standing under leaky roofs while singing, why wait for a budget to pass? Perhaps the parents can circulate a fund drive among themselves to pay for such repairs. Or, parents can organize a work group among themselves to make repairs themselves. After all, it is "for the children."