I was a member of the Vision 2020 Building Committee. It is based on this experience that I would encourage all Westerly voters to REJECT Question 1 on Oct. 10. The proposal outlined in Question 1 is a want-based plan, not a need-based plan. Westerly has existing facilities that can be reconfigured and updated to serve current needs and still have room for future needs. A new building does not make a good education, the staff and curriculum does. Westerly should continue with the neighborhood schools as much as possible.
Westerly has a large and vibrant senior population. The age 65+ group is 21% of the town’s population and will increase to 25% in the next five years. For example, school enrollment has declined by nearly 25% in the past 15 years while growth in the 50+ and 65+ age groups has increased to keep the population stable.
These seniors did the heavy financial lifting in funding Springbrook School and a new Westerly Middle School, renovating our Westerly High School campus, building a new police station and public works facility, and supporting high-priority road and infrastructure projects. They are mostly long-term or lifetime residents who depend on savings, limited pensions and Social Security benefits.
Shouldn’t the schools look to move students from Babcock to the underutilized Ward building for both safety and environmental concerns? Are four different start times a concern? Is the probable 7.4% increase in 2020 property taxes palatable? This plan is nearly double the previous voted-down plan!