"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Mythbusters

We are nearing Town Meeting and the letters to the editor regarding the proposed community center continue. Three are in today''s Laconia Daily Sun. In a continuing effort to set the record straight so we can have a clean up or down vote, here are some clarifications below. 
Before that though, after more than 70 public meetings spanning 4 different committees over the past 5 years, the issue has been studied ad nauseum. Please remember that the BoS purpose with regard to Article 2 is to settle the issue. We are not "pushing" this project on anyone. We did research and did exactly what you asked us to do in 2013 and 2014 Town Meetings. 
Another point worth mentioning, is the opportunity if this proposal is passed for local contractors/tradesmen to work on the construction and the potential for local businesses to grow. 

 ( Bold is from letter writers): 
"no concrete proof of need, just some "fuzzy math" regarding registration numbers/contrived scheduling and actual participation-  The mindset that this is just for kids is not accurate. It is a community center for all age groups. The school and rec department have worked very closely to maximize available gym time. The usage is for teams not for individuals. Despite proof  presented many, many times, that same old chestnut keeps coming back from the same people.  PHD's from UNH studied these same schedules and data and came to the same conclusion that the Blue Ribbon Commission did: we have insufficient gym space. It's not rocket science. Talk to parents that pick up their kids late at night or to coaches who have to juggle schedules. 

On to the alleged " myths" :
1. The gyms are filled to 100 percent capacity- yes they are. In fact, the Academy gym is over 100% at times. MCS is closer to 96%. In fall and winter, indoors is the only game in town. In late summer and spring, sports move outdoors.

2. A new community center will bring members of the community together.-correct again. A community center is a place for all age groups to come together in various community activities. It can be a vital cornerstone in the village that could anchor new business. 

3. A new building will be in compliance with existing voter-approved zoning ordinances.-true again. The BoS have said repeatedly that the town will follow the same rules as everyone else. 

4. It won't cost anything (because of the school bond that will be retired in January of 2018).
Mathematically, that is true, but...we purposely also provided the full cost without the school bond being retired . The facts though are that the school bond does come off the books in 2018 and the impact to the tax rate would then be neutral. It would be disingenuous to not include that fact. 

How about doing it the Yankee way, and improve upon resources we already own, such as the Lions Club? A lot could be done on that site, and it could be done for a lot less than $6.5 million.-  The Lions Club is an old building and is a complete tear down to be of expanded use. Why spend money on rebuilding it and having a piecemeal community center in three or four different locations? A location " on or adjacent to school property" was the direction from the legislative body. That is what is being proposed. 

As for the controversial multipurpose room in the Central School, it could be reconfigured with adjustable-height basketball backboards for an estimated $15,000- it is not really controversial. The Blue Ribbon Commission and UNH were in exact agreement that the space was not suitable for use as true gym  and in fact was unsafe for that purpose. Adding adjustable backboards only exacerbates the problem and doesn't solve the core problem. 

The equivalent true cost for the 10-year bond would be nearly $9 million; $6.4 million plus interest equals $7.2 million plus $1.6 million operating cost equals $8.9 million over the 10-year period. (That's) significantly higher than the $6.4 million in Article 2.- No. A ten year bond for $6.3 million at an interest rate of 2.54% will cost $7,197,408. The proposed operating cost is estimated to be no more than $162,000 per year, but as stated in the various presentations, this amount includes dollars already in the public works budget. The actual up cost is closer to $110,000 per year. Extrapolated over ten years that is $1,100,000. When you then subtract the minimum of $630,000 to be raised by fundraising, the total over ten years ( not including added revenue) is actually no more than $7.6 million. I strongly suspect that at the end of the day, the total finished cost of construction will be significantly less. We provided " worst case" scenarios. 

With so many unanswered questions: 10- or 15-year bond? Finished design? Test boring results? Impact on aquifer and wetlands? Traffic impact on the Village? Declining population/actual need? Taxpayers are being rushed into making a multimillion-dollar decision without enough facts. -  As I wrote at the beginning of this post, more than 70 public meetings spanning 4 different committees over the past 5 years is not the definition of " rushing." The BoS will negotiate the final bond terms. and the Planning Board using existing ordinances and site plan regulations, will dictate the mitigations required. The town has a very stringent stormwater management ordinance, ground water protection ordinance and a comprehensive shoreland protection ordinance that far exceeds the State requirements. We were given $17,500 and it was stretched pretty far. The public will have the majority voice in terms of the final design.

My principal reservations are having an oversized structure violating the zoning ordinance and site plan regulations located in the rear of the Taylor property, with access via a new 53 foot wide road onto Route 25 through the middle of the only remaining open space in the village center.-The proposed structure would require a variance from the Zoning Board, a common and legal procedure. I have no idea where the "53 foot wide road"  comes from. The access road is not a requirement for the project and should not be a factor in the voters decision. The remaining open space is quite significant, more than 3 acres. 

 The CC at this location will only exacerbate current traffic congestion on Route 25, while destroying the only remaining green space where the town's Christmas tree now stands.-... To construct a new intersection onto Route 25,with no assurance of DOT approval, will only further overload Route 25-  the "Christmas tree" is not native to the property. It was cut elsewhere and placed on the lawn for the holidays. The space where it was placed will not be impacted by the proposed project. As to traffic, NH DOT is the decider. No one will build a road out to Rt 25 without DOT approval first. It is not anticipated that the traffic impact will be significant. Finally, the road is not the key to the project. It is entirely possible to go forward with the project and never build a road out to Rt. 25.

Note, the proposed CC will be 15 percent larger than Meredith's-of which more than 25% is for the walking track area.Without that track, the square footage is much less than Meredith. Many people ( myself included) would gladly use it , especially in the winter. I would have no problem walking around the track while some are using the gym court. Take a walk around the track, come hang out and have coffee with you neighbors is appealing to many in town. 


As to a parallel road from Blake Road out to Old Route 109,- that is a concept that few support and would require impacting the rights of private property owners. I would oppose that. 



As a personal observation, I have belonged to gyms and have observed a significant decline in usage from April through October, when outdoor activities are more attractive.- summer time will be busy for the community center as it will allow us to offer  a full day program for camps. We currently have nearly 200 children in our summer 1/2 day program and cannot expand to full day due to space issues. Going to a full day program (and charging for the true cost of it) will be very appealing to families in town. 

I also note that there are local private recreational facilities in town, including gyms, yoga studios, fitness clubs and banquet facilities, and wonder what the economic impact on these businesses might be with an "all purpose" CC operating as a gym, function hall, etc.- The functions held at the Lions Club already exist. Moving them to  a new locaction will not impact private venues. We have not proposed the typical fitness club equipment and space so as not to compete with local business