Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Study all alternatives for Vernon rec facility

By Harold R. Cummings
Journal Inquirer
April 21, 2006

In a letter to the editor, Thomas DiDio, chairman of the Vernon Democratic Party, stated that the issue of the proposed regional YMCA on Route 31 is not a Democratic issue nor a Republican issue, but a community issue ("Let residents decide on YMCA," April 15-16). I couldn't agree more.

What the community needs to know, however, is why Republican Town Council members voted against the very flawed plan that was presented to them by Mayor Ellen Marmer.

As originally presented over a year ago, the land for the YMCA was going to be donated to the town and the necessary sewer and utility lines constructed at developer's expense.

Somehow, under Marmer's direction, the plans morphed into the town paying more than $4.4 million for the land and for water and sewer line construction (not including interest and bonding fees and costs).

Even more disturbing is that, as Deputy Mayor Jason McCoy pointed out, because of wetlands on the property, there is every possibility that the building would actually be built on the Tolland side of the property, thereby denying Vernon of the source of revenue needed to repay the construction costs. (I find it ironic that Marmer, who campaigned against big-box development in the area, is now advocating that the town construct the very water and sewer lines that will, in all likelihood, open the door to such development.)

The community debate should not be over whether or not to build a YMCA on Route 31, but rather: "What is the best plan for developing and improving recreational facilities in Vernon?"

Such a debate should include consideration of:

1. The pool and bathhouse at Henry Park need to be replaced.

2. The pool at Center 375 needs improvements.

3. Center 375 is currently rented to the YMCA at below-market rates.

4. The Center 375 reserve account has a balance of about $1 million.

5. Center 375 has a market value of more than $1 million.

6. Any town recreation facility should be accessible to all town residents as to location and cost (i.e. free).

7. The YMCA, while a valued and worthwhile organization, does charge membership fees which many Vernon residents cannot afford.

Among alternative plans that should be considered :

* Build a new facility at Henry Park to replace the pool, possibly in partnership with the YMCA. Neces-sary utilities and land are already there, and the park is more conveniently located to downtown Rockville.

* Sell Center 375 to the YMCA and partner with the Y to make improvements, add an indoor pool, and a new gym.

* Sell Center 375, close Henry Park Pool and build a completely new facility on a location with existing utilities - such as in downtown Rockville. If you really want to revitalize downtown Rockville, then stop talking about it and build something there that people want to go to.

DiDio called the Republican council members "The Gang of Seven." Considering their stand on this issue, a more accurate term is "The Magnificent Seven."

The writer is chairman of the Vernon Republican Town Committee.

©Journal Inquirer 2006