Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Short cuts: The 'Y' deal, a healer, and the livable wage

Journal Inquirer
April 21, 2006

The Republican majority on the Vernon Town Council was right to kill the proposed YMCA deal, on Route 31 near Exit 67 off Interstate 84, and if necessary should do so again.

It was a bad deal.

Some $4.4 million just for the land and sewer and utility lines is a bad deal, no matter how good the concept.

The concept is a good one: a town fitness center and pool. The mayor and the council should not give up on that.

But on the letters pages today, Harold R. Cummings, the town Republican chairman, makes two good points. First, such a project need not be done in conjunction with the YMCA. It could be done with the Y. But the town could do it on its own. It certainly should not be more costly or cumbersome to do with the Y than on its own. And the town should not bear all the cost and risk.

West Hartford has a town-owned natatorium. It is professionally run and beautiful. Vernon could learn from that experience.

Also, the town, as Cummings says, has three options worth considering:

- Build the fitness center and indoor pool at Henry Park, where there is a great outdoor pool in need of repair and land, with parking. (It is also centrally located and Little League baseball and adult softball are played there. The park would probably need to be expanded, but that still might cost less than starting from scratch.

- Rebuild the pool and the building at Center 375, where the current Y is. (That's a location that could not be more ideal.)

- Or close one or both of the old outdoor town pools, sell Center 375, and build an all new facility.

The town should talk about these, and other, options. This project just might be doable with some good will, creative thinking, and reaching across party lines. The dream is worth the effort.


Now that Manchester has adopted the living wage law, maybe opponents and adherents can stop talking past each other.

It does seem it is mostly a symbolic gesture. Indeed, we were often told that one of the big positives for the ordinance is that it wouldn't affect many people. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. repeated this line in Manchester, one that he had used on this writer.

But if it really doesn't change much, why expend so much time and energy on passing it?

How about this: The living wage law is a symbol but symbols are powerful. Symbols start change. And why not help a few people?

Meanwhile, raising the state's minimum wage and adopting something like DeStefano's, or Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney's, state health insurance plan would help a lot of people.

Roughly 45.8 million Americans are uninsured. Among those under 65, the percentage of the population ranges from 13 to 19 percent depending upon the state. In the under-30 workforce of the nation, the percentages double. That's as many as 38 percent of the working young people in some states uninsured! That's unacceptable. It is almost un-American.


The move of the Boston Bakery, in Rockville, to West Main Street and its "joint venture" with the Loom City Creamery there is a good move. (Baking will still be done on Ward Street.) The deal might save that venerable institution and it will help the creamery too. It's another win for downtown Rockville and another loss for those of us fighting gravity.


Dr. Lorraine Fournier was not a famous national figure like Gene Pitney, but, like him, she was a beloved neighbor in Somers.

She was a veterinarian for 40 years and worked 12-hour days until the day she retired. She was a pure healer with a slightly rough-edge and a very large heart. In her practice there were no appointments and there was no frou-frou. You waited a long time to see the doctor, your fees were low, she told you the truth, she moved on. And she expected you to do the same.

She was an un-Disney-fied Dr. Doolittle, and she brightened her little corner of the world immeasurably.

©Journal Inquirer 2006