I attended yet another informational meeting about the renovation/addition of the town hall in Killingworth on Tuesday July 17th at the Elementary School. As usual, there were plenty of questions and mild arguments about the scope of this proposed project.
As I was thinking about what I had seen and heard that night while at work the next day, I was struck by something: This project has raised questions about the relationship between the public and those elected to serve.
At what point in our society have publicly elected bureaucrats become more important than the people that voted them into office? As I listened to the Town Office Building Committee, First Selectwoman Cathy Iino and several people who spoke up in support of this project I noticed a common theme. These people believe they are somehow entitled to have a town hall that is extravagant, spacious, with all the amenities of home. They seem to have come to believe that the town hall is not a place where the town does its business but rather a place to celebrate town government. There is no other way to describe the excitement that was evident in the presentation. Excitement over a project to erect a tabernacle to town government.
Several times I heard from the committee about how this project was the "most economical" way to achieve the directives given them in designing an addition to the current town hall.
Seriously? The "most economical" way to expand our town hall is to spend over $4.5 million dollars (including interest) and increase the size of town hall from 9000 to 14400 square feet?
We all know how nature abhors a vacuum. Well, so does government. When the idea came up that town government would try to grow its numbers to fill all the new space available the idea was mildly scoffed at. Ms. Iino said that they were not looking to add employees to fill the space. While I believe her at this time, I know the voracious appetite of government. There will come a time when someone says, "We have all this room. Perhaps we could hire some more people."
Also, one member of the committee said that they weren't building the town hall with the idea that additional office space could be added. He then almost immediately followed up with the inherent post and beam design option of being able to move interior walls around to accommodate any new needs that might arise in the town hall. Still think they weren't planning to expand government?
One issue that was not fully explained was the claim in the town's flyer about how "we are not compliant with election laws" by using KES. Are we given to understand that the past two elections were illegal? Were they not up to state law? If not, why aren't the parties responsible not being held accountable. Mrs. Dennis, the democrat Registrar of Voters, attempted to explain how we had to pay so much to add a phone line to KES for every election and have the Registrar's office staffed. The cost was approximately $500. The answer to this problem was the make the 75 person meeting room of the $4.7 million dollar town hall the new polling place. The cost for that room alone is estimated to be a little over $500,000. The most economical way to solve a $2000 a year polling place problem is to spend $500,000. See how government thinks? They have no qualms whatsoever about spending other people's money.
I saved the best for last. I have heard the claim that this new renovation/addition will benefit our children. Please, tell me how. My sons only visits to town hall are when I get my dog's license and I pay my tax bills. What possible benefits to my sons' lives could be derived from this new town hall? Honestly, that is one of the most puerile strawman arguments I've ever heard.
It has become clear to me that the people in this town that want this proposal to go through think about having a place to point at and say, "Look at our beautiful town hall." They think that people will come to Killingworth to live because of a manse-like town hall rather than the community. They believe they will be remembered for the great project they pushed. I think the only time, after a few years, anyone will remember town hall is when they drive there to pay the extra taxes on it.