Opinion: It’s worth waiting for all the information about Decas

Apr 22, 2022

To the Editor:

On Monday, April 25th, Town Meeting will get two petition articles relating to the Decas School, both from the same lead petitioner. I write to clarify whether both articles are even necessary and where they fall short of compliance with the Town Charter. 

Article 24: This article asks Town Meeting to vote to allow the Decas Steering Committee (DSC) to give its report. Although the lead petitioner did not mention it in her recent op-ed in Wareham Week, this article is unnecessary, as Annual Town Meeting warrants for decades have contained Article 5 authorizing committees to submit reports to Town Meeting. 

Article 23: Last fall the motion for the Decas article that Town Meeting passed set up a committee to study the feasibility of uses for the property. The original article called for seven of the petitioners to take control of the building and operate it as a separate enterprise. Town Counsel confirmed those provisions were plainly unlawful under the Wareham Town Charter, which gives the Town Administrator direct control over Town facilities under Article 2, section 4(k). A compromise motion was worked out to establish the Decas Steering Committee. The Board of Selectmen supported that compromise motion, which also allocated $15,000 to hire a consultant to advise the DSC. Town Meeting passed the motion.

On March 1 this year, the last day articles could be submitted, the lead petitioner again submitted an article that directly conflicts with the Town Charter by effectively attempting to order moving the Council on Aging there by July 1, 2022. Let me reiterate: neither Town Meeting nor even the Board of Selectmen have the right under the Town Charter to order the Town Administrator to move any Town department or service anywhere at any time.

Furthermore, the article entirely jumps the gun on what to do with the building and presumes recommendations will be made by the DSC to turn the building into a community center before they even receive a report/feasibility study from their consultant. Before the DSC delivers a conclusive report, a review of other possibilities for use must be done such as the regional state planning agency’s report that the Town could gain hundreds of jobs and hundreds of thousands in tax revenue if the site were used to build laboratory space. Independently, the abutting Smithers laboratory has also expressed interest. Recently, the Police Building Study Committee wanted to look at the property for that purpose. 

There is no mention of other any such considerations in the DSC’s meeting minutes through March. I look forward to hearing their interim report on Monday night, and hope that all possibilities for the property will have been fully considered when their final report is delivered in the fall. You, the taxpayer, deserve no less.

Very truly yours,

Peter W. Teitelbaum, Esq.