Like many people in Suffield, I would like to have a nice community center, but not now. I say this for two good reasons.
First, Suffield has much greater need than this. Some of our public buildings are an embarrassment. Practically every town around us, both in Connecticut and Massachusetts has better facilities than we do. For example, town hall is outmoded and undersized. Town employees, including the First Selectman, are housed and scattered in multiple buildings around town. That makes for poor customer service and difficult communications. The Highway Department Garage is shameful and inefficient. And then there is the Town Library! Renovation of that building has become a sad, longstanding joke, and yet planners would have us undertake a similar renovation project for another old building called Bridge Street School. If and when this project does go forward I recommend we perhaps save the building’s facade but build everything new behind it just as Suffield Academy is doing right now with its oldest school building.
The second good reason for delay is the current economic mess, Federal and State, that will ultimately all land on us as individual taxpayers. Suffield will suffer serious budget shortfalls regardless of what finally emerges from Hartford. I am told that reduction in the State reimbursements to Suffield could be as much as $8 million dollars, which is roughly 80 percent of what we have come to rely on in prior years. That is a huge section of the revenue of this town. I suspect with the tight state finances, grant monies will be very short over the next few years, and that too can hurt us in any number of ways.
I know that many good people have labored long and well over this Bridge Street project. Their work need not be wasted but rather just shelved for the time being. Conditions have changed sharply over the two years since the bonding resolution was passed, and they remain unsettled today. So for these reasons I say, “Not now.”