Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Fill empty space before building new juvenile facility

It’s important for the state of Vermont to have a safe and comfortable facility to treat traumatized juveniles. Addison County and the City of Vergennes may well be the best location for that to occur.

Before we build anything new, as a state I’d ask us to keep in mind that every public asset we build must be maintained by the taxpayers in perpetuity. Parks, libraries, schools, state roads, etc., all come with a cost year after year. Most of our public assets are important to our lives and society, however some become underused to obsolete as our society progresses.

For example, “The space book 2023” categorizes and totals all the State Department of Buildings & General Services owned and leased buildings, land, towers, and rest areas. Not included in that report are properties under control of other state agencies like Historic Preservation, AOT, ANR, and State Colleges. That report states that currently 158,136 square feet of space (5.4% of the total) is vacant. We taxpayers are paying for that space, even when it is unoccupied.

Our public K-12 schools are not directly owned by the state of Vermont, but also are funded by the taxpayers. From the Vermont Agency of Education “2022 School Facilities Inventory Report” (and assuming I totaled it correctly!), our public K-12 school system has 383 buildings/wings/additions totaling 18,119,530 gross square feet of space. With 82,901 students enrolled, that’s 219 gross square feet per student.

Data on typical space per student is hard to find. While dated, The Council of Educational Facility Planners International tracked average per-student square footage in Canada and the United States in the mid-1990’s. That information:

• Elementary Schools: 70.1 to 111.5 gross square feet per student.

• Middle Schools: 81.2 to 154.4 gross square feet per student.

• High Schools: 101.9 to 160.7 gross square feet per student.

I don’t mention these statistics to add fuel to the fire on our school system debates. I do mention these statistics to suggest that we have the 20,000 necessary square feet of space to spare that could be repurposed for the juvenile crisis facility. I encourage you to look at the aforementioned “2022 School Facilities Inventory Report” — particularly the estimates of the renovations needed on the buildings. The dollar numbers are terrifying, and since the buildings already exist and are public, we’re going to pay the bill for those renovations.

Before we build a new juvenile crisis facility and add more perpetual overhead to the taxpayer burden, let’s take a closer look at what we already have, already pay for, and will be paying to renovate anyway.

Chris Lapierre

Vergennes

Share this story:

More News
Op/Ed

Editorial: Graduation’s life lessons

The challenge in the journey is to persevere with grace, humility and goodwill toward othe … (read more)

Op/Ed

Bristol 4th committee gets boost from Cubbers

The Bristol Fourth of July Committee extends its deepest appreciation to Cubbers Restauran … (read more)

Op/Ed

Community Forum: Scott isn’t offering solutions

It’s Groundhog Day. Gov. Scott vetoed the yield bill, again leaving Vermont school distric … (read more)

Share this story: