Opinion: Freidin changes mind on Middlebury building plan

In the Jan. 30 Addison County Independent article about my running for Middlebury selectboard, I said I would vote yes to relocate the town offices and gym. After additional reflection, I have decided to vote no.
My interest in serving on the selectboard has always been to help heal divisions within town and to facilitate community-minded decisions, involving all who are interested.
I respect the work and goodwill of the selectboard, steering committee, and Middlebury College. Its generous offer is the reason I initially supported the proposal. But I will vote no because:
The proposal conflicts with the town plan, adopted only 13 months ago. The plan says Middlebury will “ensure that the post office, town offices, and community services remain in their downtown prominent, accessible locations, and support renovation.” The current proposal does not support renovation; it would not keep the municipal building in its current location; and it would move the senior meals program out of downtown. Middlebury should follow its town plan until it is formally changed.
The process used to develop the current proposal has not met the expectations of the people of Middlebury. No committee was charged with seeking and listening to their ideas. Many townspeople felt rushed or left out. That led to frustration and division. Had a welcoming and collaborative process been followed, more ideas and less division would have been the result. Fortunately we can still make that happen.
We need to return to the beginning and make time for all townspeople to express their ideas and to work collaboratively.
Perhaps we’ll conclude that the current proposal is best; perhaps we’ll uncover better options. In either event we will hopefully go forward together. That is as important as where we site the town offices and gym.
John S. Freidin, Middlebury

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