Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
No guarantees with YMCA

Journal Inquirer
April 10, 2006

I am sharing my reasons for voting against the proposal put before the Vernon Town Council on April 4 regarding the YMCA project.

I think the project would be a wonderful addition to Vernon and a great enhancement to the quality of life for many families. But at what cost?

When you, as taxpayers, are asked to vote to authorize us to bond, you have a right to feel confident that the deal has been vetted by your fiscal body and deemed to be a reasonable expenditure.

Please understand the facts. The proposal would have asked you to approve an expenditure of more than $4 million: $1 million would be used to purchase a 15.9-acre property on the south side of I-84 at exit 67, a portion of which is in Tolland. The town would then give the property to the YMCA at no cost. The town would spend $2 million to extend sewer lines to the site and another $900,000 for water lines.

The YMCA is a nonprofit, nontaxable entity and Vernon would not receive tax payments from the project but would receive PILOT funds instead. Should the building end up being built on the Tolland portion, Vernon would lose. When and if there is further development in the area, sewer hookups could help recoup some of that cost. There is also the possibility that the cost of water lines could be defrayed by future development in the area. There are no guarantees.

It does not make sense to me to give away one of the town's most valuable pieces of property and ask-you to pay for utilities, with no firm guarantee we will recoup those costs, for a facility that we will never own or have any control over.

Mayor Ellen Marmer is angry. Her anger frequently leads to words like "reprehensible" and "playing politics." Well, sorry we upset her. This may be a nice project but it is a very, very, bad business deal for Vernon taxpayers. Maybe in the future a better deal can be struck.

This habit of running to the back yard and picking money off the "bonding tree" has got to stop.

Christy N. Vale

The writer is the majority leader of the Vernon Town Council.