Letter: Clarksburg School Project Not a Good Investment

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To the Editor:

As a homeowner in Clarksburg who has young children I took a great interest in your recent article regarding the proposed Clarksburg $19M school project.

I believe greatly in investing in infrastructure and in education particularly. As a father to two special education students I am especially sensitive to the importance of public schools being able to well serve their local populations.

At the same time I believe in looking at fiscal responsibility seriously, trying to fairly weigh what is likely a good long term investment versus that which is a risk level that perhaps raises too many red flags.

From the start it is troublesome that it was explained that a 40-year term was chosen simply because 30 years would have been impossible to pay for. Sensible financial planners tell people why loan terms need to be kept within reason all the time. Yes this is an infrastructure project for a town and not a personal loan. However many of the same principles still apply. Beyond that we have some very serious risks involved in the current realities of our county.

We all know that Berkshire County's population is both shrinking and aging. We also know that the reasons for that are largely outside of the control of any single town government or individual. Our state capital does not seem terribly interesting in addressing root causes for this. Given this we need to seriously consider if this school can survive as one for the next 40 years. Regionalization recommendations have already been put out in the public arena. Logic seems to suggest this as an eventuality. Is Clarksburg well positioned to be a regional hub in such a system? As a border town with Vermont with no direct access to some other nearby towns where even the updated building would house only one class per grade the answer seems to be a clear "no".

Simply "hoping" that the renovation spares us from the possible guillotine of regionalization in 10 to 15 years strikes me as foolhardy at best. Do we think we could really beat out North Adams if something local had to go?

We also need to consider other town needs that will come up. How credit worthy will we be when we need a new fire truck next time? How credit worthy will we be to handle our portion of replacing the bridge that used to be two lanes but is now one for safety? If we are pushing the envelope with the school project the answer will be "not very".

I really do feel ill not being able to support this. But we need to open our eyes to reality. I think we need to go back and look at the biggest pain points for the school and see what kind of smaller scale measured approach we can undertake for some sort of relief. We also need to be open to the idea that at some point we might not have the income generating population to sustain our own school.

Joseph Smith
Clarksburg, Mass.



Tags: Clarksburg school project,   

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