Someone kindly reached out to ask me some questions about the vote on the DPW garage, as has the press, so I will take my response and tweak it here to serve both my fellow residents and the press.
The contrary votes yesterday on the DPW garage and the budget override indicated to me that Medfield voters are making real choices between issues. It also indicated to me that the planning for the DPW garage needs to continue anew. There is no question but that we need to build something new for a town garage, we just need to determine what that will be. So that planning process should start right away.
I believe that making improvements in town governance is more akin to a marathon than a sprint, so based on our recent town meeting I have already put together and shared with the town administrators, my colleagues on the Board of Selectmen, and readers of this blog a list on things that I think the town should be doing differently to make town meeting next year work better, and much of that has to do with getting people better information in advance of town meeting about the issues upon which they are asked to vote.
As regards the DPW garage, first, I see my role as a selectman as being to gather information on behalf of the residents by reading materials and attending those many nightly meetings that residents cannot attend (last night it was about how to reduce Lyme disease in town), synthesizing that information, making evaluations, and then reporting back to the residents what I have learned. I profess no greater abilities to make decisions, only a willingness to do the work.
Second, as regards my comments on the DPW garage, I had followed my usual procedures, but I did not hear the answers to my concerns before the town meeting, and so I stated those concerns briefly at the town meeting. After town meeting, because I had spoken against the garage, I was asked by Richard DeSorgher to create a series of bullet points of my concerns about the DPW garage to assist Medfield High School students debate the issue, which I did. Once that list was drafted, I then decided to share it with the town as a whole, so that my thinking could be better understood, as part of that reporting back function as a selectman.
Third, my position is that I am skeptical about what has been proposed, but I am willing to be convinced that the proposed building, or any other one, is the proper one for the town – I just want to see the case get made. My understanding is that once we vote the monies, we will get that precise building. In my experience, it is not a process similar to what Jim Munz posited, were we constructing a building for ourselves or our businesses, where there could be a tweaking of the design once it is voted. Medfield cannot do as Google just did, to bond monies now and decide later what to do. If we could have voted the monies now and decided on the building details later, I would have supported that idea. That reality was why it was important to me to make sure we were getting the right building details, and we can only be sure it is the right building after the case has been made and all questions answered. The cost of the garage is a function of its size, so we need to be comfortable with its size, and size is driven by the details I questioned.
Fourth, I agree that it is an opportune time to build municipal buildings for the reasons you cite, low interest and few other construction projects. Also, I was educated that the cost per square foot was in the ballpark, as Greg Sullivan, an architect on the Warrant Committee, assured me at a meeting a month before town meeting that the then price, I believe of $212/sq. ft., was what town garages really cost.
Fifth, I think that now we need to have this or some other DPW garage building explained to the town, and if that is done, perhaps the town will then vote to build it. If the driver is taking advantage of the current financing and construction climate, then we can hold a special town meeting sooner that the next annual town meeting.