Town votes not to accept Decas committee recommendation

Oct 24, 2022

The most controversial issue at Monday, Oct. 24’s Fall Town Meeting was the one that the town’s vote had the least amount of power to decide. In a narrow vote, the town decided 65-55 not to approve and accept the recommendation of the Decas School Steering Committee to turn the vacant elementary school building into a community center.

However, even if the town did vote to approve and accept their recommendation, the Board of Selectmen has already approved Town Administrator Derek Sullivan’s plans for the building. Sullivan wants to turn the Decas school building into a site for Town Hall offices. The Town Hall itself would become the new home of the Police Department.

At Monday’s meeting, Jonathan Dallmeyer, clerk of the Decas School Steering Committee, once again summarized his committee’s 107-page report outlining the possibility of turning the building into a community center. The report claims that the cost of running the building, which would be $450,000 each year, could be offset by renting out space for community organizations to use. Finance Committee member Norma Scogin had “concerns” about Dallmeyer’s report, saying that she was told that the property could not be rented for 18 months.

“We have no guarantee of $400,000,” she said. “As a member of the finance committee, and as a member of a town that is constantly struggling to find money for the things we desperately need, I have strong reservations about this.”

Several local residents disagreed, expressing opposition to Sullivan’s plan.

“There isn’t even a plan yet,” said Jared Frederickson. “That plan isn’t even a plan yet. We have no idea what it costs, we don’t have any details on it yet… [The Committee’s plan] is fiscally responsible. It’s actually revenue-generating for the town. We can go all day about this plan that is incomplete and at best ineffective and inefficient.”

“Here is an opportunity to take a building that is not wanted for its purpose, and take it and use it for the town’s needs,” said Leslie Edwards-Davis. “Remember all the folks that can’t be here tonight. The mothers that are home with their children doing homework, the children that need after-school care. The parents who need childcare… The seniors who can’t get out.”

Under Sullivan’s plan, the Council on Aging would be headquartered in the Decas school building, which is just what the Committee wants.

“[The plan] makes sense fiscally, physically, is what seniors have been asking for and is one-stop shopping,” said Judith Whiteside, Chair of the Board of Selectmen.