(Please remember this is only MY personal opinion, not the opinion of the Town Council as a whole.)
Due to the continual decline in the students in Westerly (which I think numbered well over 4,000 back in 1970 and now numbers somewhere around 2,800), over the years both Bradford and Tower Street schools were closed.
Bradford is currently dormant, with only the recreation director located there with her office.
Tower Street was originally turned over to be a community center that was supposed to be self-sustaining in 2009 but ended up costing the schools somewhere along the lines of $700,000 a year more than it generated. I may be slightly wrong with the numbers, but you get the point.
So the School Committee vacated the building because they simply cannot absorb that in their budget and turned over an empty building to the town of Westerly last month.
All but the preschool program have found new homes in Westerly. I, in fact, was able to personally help relocate Literacy Volunteers to Christ Church, which is centrally located in downtown Westerly, and they are very happy in their new location.
So now what to do with two vacant properties? The town cannot afford to maintain two empty properties, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year even to leave empty.
The Bradford property is not worth half as much as the Tower Street property for many reasons, including the fact that there is a sewer hook-up at Tower Street. So my thought is to sell the more valuable property and to take a portion of that money to renovate Bradford and turn that into a recreation and community center for the town of Westerly.
Transportation has been singled out as a problem for some people and my hope is that we could work with our state delegation to get funding for transportation to the future envisioned community center for Westerly residents.
When I was first elected back in 2002, the first thing I tried to do was get a community center for the town of Westerly. It was actually one of my first goals. But it has to be financially feasible and sufficient.
I’m also not averse to seeing if we could hold onto the basketball and tennis courts at Tower Street and sell the property around it so that that is available for kids in the neighborhood of Tower Street to walk to. I’ve been hearing specifically about that since our vote, and it was part of the Planning Board opinion as well.
I welcome people’s thoughts and opinions (please no personal attacks), and if you’d like to email me please email email@example.com.
I know everyone’s opinion is different, I’m just trying to use my experience on the Town Council and the facts of the budget and trying not to raise taxes on people who are trying to stay in their homes and come up with some kind of equitable solution.
Caswell Cooke Jr.
The writer is a Westerly Town Council member running for re-election.