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Opinion: Spending a lot of money on fields and boilers in Wallingford and Meriden

By Jeffery Kurz

Meriden’s City Council recently authorized spending a ton of money, as in $306,700.51, for a new boiler at the senior center on West Main Street. That a new boiler is needed does not seem to be in doubt. What some councilors were doubtful about, however, is the wisdom of spending so much money on a building that is soon to be replaced.

Meriden’s senior center is moving to a spot in an area left on its own after the hospital fled to city outskirts to become MidState Medical Center a quarter century ago. Why not just wait and leave the old building and its boiler issues on West Main behind?

If they had followed that reasoning in Wallingford there would have been no celebration Thursday night. At Riccitelli Field, the first varsity game held on the new turf yielded a victory for the Sheehan High School girls soccer team. As the R-J’s Sean Krofssik reported, three first-half Titan goals contributed to a 4-1 win over crosstown rival Lyman Hall.

Sheehan teams have been nomadic to this point this season, playing home games at five different locations while waiting for the field project to reach completion. “The fall has been challenging,” said Sheehan Athletic Director Gary Gravina, in a quote from a previous story that put it mildly.

“It’s going to be great for our seniors to get out there and play,” he’d said. “The field looks great. I came out really well and I think they are going to be excited to play on it.”

No doubt. What might have been in doubt, however, was the practicality of building a new $2 million field at Sheehan when there was talk about combining the town’s two public high schools. It seems a matter of agreement that a unified school would mean the Lyman Hall location.

The two examples add up to an argument for the here and now. Based on comments in a recent mayoral forum, support for a single high school in Wallingford remains a matter of persuasion. Thursday night’s rivalry game gives you an idea of why people might not want to lose the two school approach.

Riley O’Connell, the Democratic mayoral candidate, supported holding a referendum on the question. “I’m personally not in favor of the plan,” he said. “There are too many unanswered questions for me, such as finding a suitable location, figuring out transportation across our 40-square-mile town, and most importantly guaranteeing the student-teacher ratio would remain the same.”

The Republican mayoral candidate, Vinny Cervoni, said he was not in favor of the school board’s plan. “Having given a great deal of consideration to the high school consolidation plan, I have the following reservations,” he said. He mentioned increased traffic in the Lyman Hall neighborhood. “The proposal, as presented by the Board of Education, showed no annual operational savings, or reduction in the annual Board of Education budget,” he said. “With the debt service that will be required, the impact upon the town budget is too great for the project to go forward without resulting in a significant tax increase.”

So, if they’d waited on the field where would we be? No field. Or at least not a well operating one.

And, in Meriden, no boiler. No boiler, or at least not a well operating one, for at least one winter. Maybe more.

Take that into consideration and the spending does not seem so extreme. In the here and now Sheehan High seniors deserved their night. Meriden seniors deserve a senior center with heat.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.





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