Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Orwell Town Hall coverage welcome

Thank you for your Dec. 5 article about the Orwell Village School and the Orwell Town Hall. I encourage you to do further research on the “Slate Valley Innovation Project” (SVIP).
Much of the SVIP proposed $60-million capital improvement construction is to add a middle school to the current Fair Haven Union High School complex. Does that mean that middle school students who would be enrolled in the Orwell Village School will go to Fair Haven? The $6.5 million for new construction at the Orwell school includes a middle school regulation basketball court and other dimensions that seems to assume that the middle school students will continue to attend Orwell school. What is the enrollment projection for the Orwell school and how does that relate to the proposed new construction?
The cost of repairing and renovating the town hall to better accommodate the school’s needs and continue to serve the community in other ways was estimated at $2 million in your article. I suggest you look at the assessment of the Orwell Town Hall done in 2017 by Keefe & Wesner Architects. (The copy I saw was addressed to Patrick Walters, principal of the Orwell Village School.) Although their rough estimate of the cost is in excess of $2 million, which includes a substantial amount for new construction to increase the size of the building to accommodate a regulation size middle school basketball court. Although the report does not outwardly advocate for keeping the town hall, it is certainly friendly to that idea.
The proposed addition to the Orwell Village School would undoubtedly solve many facility issues and improve the educational environment for students and staff. Since the cost of that ($6.5 million) would be spread over the other taxpayers in the Slate Valley district, the citizens of Orwell would not feel the impact of the construction as if they had to pay for it themselves. The same is true if the town hall remained part of the school and was renovated by the Slate Valley district.
An alternative would be to move ahead with significant new construction on the current Orwell Village School and have the town of Orwell buy the town hall for a token amount. That would mean that the cost of the necessary, substantial repairs and renovations would be the responsibility of Orwell, a burden Orwell residents would find difficult to bear. Is there a realistic possibility that a significant part of the financial burden could be gotten from outside funding? Is that a pipe dream?
Although the town hall officially belongs to the Slate Valley district, it is the Orwell Town Hall. Hopefully your writing about the town hall and the proposed demolition will open the dialogue and decision-making to a broad segment of the Orwell community.
Bob Bogdan
Orwell

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