This Wednesday, April 24, at 6 p.m. the Board of Estimate and Taxation faces a critical vote. The future of the new music instructional space and auditorium at Greenwich High School – what we’ve come to know as MISA – is at stake.
Last week the BET’s Budget Committee split 2-2 with a party line vote. On Wednesday, the full BET must overcome this Republican reluctance to move forward.
At the very least, the BET should move MISA forward to give the RTM an opportunity to vote on a project of such importance to the Greenwich community. At the very best, the BET should move MISA forward because it is not only the right thing to do, but the most cost effective way to meet this community need.
MISA is desperately needed. This message was sounded, loudly and clearly, two years ago when the Greenwich community came out in force and called upon the BET and RTM to approve funding for the project in the town’s 2011-12 budget.
BET approval was unanimous. RTM approval was by an overwhelming majority.
The need now is as great as ever, and even more urgent after a two-year delay. We must not lose sight of this long-term view as we consider funding the project.
We cannot afford not to fund MISA. We’ve already shown our commitment with an appropriation of $33.8 million. The Board of Education’s request for an additional $8.67 million should not become an excuse to reconsider this commitment. This is not the time to question the project. It’s the time to make sure MISA happens.
The bulk of this additional funding is required because of the unexpected soil contamination discovered at the site. But the town is responsible for this remediation, regardless of MISA. The environmental concerns at the Greenwich High School property must be addressed whether or not MISA goes forward.
But these concerns should in no way prevent MISA from going forward.
A smaller portion of the additional funding that is needed results from the two-year delay in starting the project. This delay was caused by discovery of the soil contamination. It should be no surprise that construction costs have increased in these two years. As we emerge from the recession, the bidding environment is changing.
This is all the more reason why MISA must move forward now. Costs are only likely to increase. Postponing the project, redesigning it , or phasing it in, as some have suggested, is unlikely to save money in the long run. To the contrary. Delays only increase costs. Moreover, the risk in trying to save money short-term by foregoing needed elements of the project is that in the long term it will cost us more.
The fiscally responsible thing for the BET to do when it votes on Wednesday is to approve the additional funding for MISA and send the request on to the RTM. To do otherwise, is to risk increased costs and a facility of lesser quality than the community deserves.
Then, too, a 6-6 party line vote to send MISA back to the drawing board could very well kill the project altogether. And that would be a tragedy.