Kicking the can?
Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur had a pet phrase as chairman of the Council Sewer Review Commission: “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.”
He was right about that. Sewer construction in some sectors of the city and especially in the Bayside, Highland Beach and Riverview neighborhoods of Ward 5 had been delayed for years. Ladouceur’s commission not only successfully pushed for council approval of additional sewer funding but also gained state legislative approval to change enabling legislation that will extend the repayment period of assessments and lower their interest rates.
The can was no longer being kicked down the road.
With such drive to stop delaying what can be done now, we were surprised by Mr. Ladouceur’s resignation from the school building committee after only one meeting.
He based his action on the premise that the committee is a thinly disguised mouthpiece for the School Committee. He pointed out that five of the committee members are from the school administration and argued the committee should be balanced between school and city administration representatives and include members of the public. Finally, he took issue with the school administration’s intent to come before the voters next fall with a bond of about $90 million as the first step to the $250 million in school upgrades identified two years ago by school consultants. Mr. Ladouceur pointed out that special elections traditionally have low voter turnout, and delaying a vote until 2018 would ensure greater voter participation.
He has a point.
Warwick has not seen any new school construction since the Toll Gate Complex was built in the early 1970s. Since then, a number of all-purpose rooms have been added to elementary schools, and with the consolidation of secondary schools this year more than $5 million in upgrades and renovations were made predominantly to Pilgrim and Vets.
A lot more needs to be done, and it’s not nearly as glamorous as the improvements made to Vets and Pilgrim auditoriums. The list includes roofs, heating systems, windows, lighting, wiring, crumbling roads and parking lots, plus much more. The role of the building committee is to prioritize these improvements in a five-year plan. Perhaps we’re missing something, but this doesn’t seem like making a choice between a Chevy and a Rolls Royce. It’s pretty basic stuff that will only get more expensive the longer we wait.
Further, the role of the committee is advisory and, regardless of its composition, the School Committee will have the say. That’s not to say the schools have the final say. The City Council will need to determine whether a bond referendum appears on the ballot and the real final say is left up to the voters.
It’s true, Mr. Ladouceur will get a second bite of the apple when the council considers the school request. He can say what he likes and doesn’t like about the plan then.
However, we fear his insistence to do it his way – a larger, more diverse committee and postponing a vote to 2018 – just kicks the can down the road.